Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Rarer Than Rare!

Yes, we live in the desert.  But even in the desert, this has been an extremely dry year.  With an annual rainfall of something like 12", about half of it normally comes in our "monsoon" season  of July into mid-September.  But with the rainy season winding down, we were 5 or 6 inches down from normal year-to-date.

But late this last Saturday evening it rained - biblical rain!  And of course, it came down while we were trying to drive the mile to a local restaurant...  Sometimes it feels good for the desert rats to get wet!  While the "official" rainfall from the National Weather Service was only 1.25", the local radar, when set to show rainfall totals, showed upwards of 3-4".  This isn't that unusual, monsoon rains are traditionally spotty from place to place only a block or two apart.  With the NWS "official" station at the airport 15 miles south of town, a factor of 2 or 3 isn't rare. 

The rain eventually slowed, then stopped, and a few hours later, while watching a rerun of Saturday Night Live, we noticed it had cleared, cooled, and the nearly full moon was shining brightly.  Suddenly, nearing midnight, we got the urge to drive the mile and a half down to the Rillito River to see if the wash was running.  Now we don't cross the Rillito every day, but it seems like ages since we've seen any flow.  I noticed weeks ago someone had built a primitive tepee in the sand, and when down on our bat visit a few days earlier (see post below), it remained, though any flow would have removed it.  So it had been ages since the wash contained significant water.

We were shocked on our Midnight run to see it running bank-to-bank, with a deafening roar!  It wasn't close to flood stage, but it is rare to see the channel full.  We took a few pictures by combination of moonlight and streetlights from the Campbell Avenue bridge, a couple of them shown here.  We were also surprised to see a steady of stream of folks like us who drove up to see the unusual event.  Turns out those camera phones don't work so well by moon and streetlight!

The next morning, we repeated the trip, thinking that it might still be running, but alas, it was not to be...  While sometimes Winter snows in the mountains can melt and the wash run for days or weeks, in this case, the water drained quickly and only a few pools, with people and dogs playing in it.  I guess if it ran every day we'd start taking it for granted, but being able to see it only on a midnight run makes it really special!

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