Desert Storm - 07/13/2020
Before I moved to Tucson, I had only heard of monsoons in Southest Asis, primarily India. I didn't realize that there was a monsoon season in the Sonoran Desert. Webster's Dictionary defines a monsoon as "a seasonal change in the prevailing wind direction that usually brings with it a different kind of weather." There can be dry monsoons and wet monsoons. In India they have both; in Arizona, we have only the kind that brings the summer rains. Our season begins in June and continues through September. It is caused by a shift from western winds to southern ones, which bring humidity and often cause severe thunderstorms.
We had our first big monsoon rain this past Saturday night. I was working at my delivery job when I first started seeing the dark clouds gathering south of town. These storms can take a long time to form, and often you can watch them coming and see them pass without ever getting wet. There is usually spectacular lightning with or without the rain. I watched the storm form for about an hour as I worked; I finished my last delivery as the first drops of rain began to fall. With these storms, there is usually wind, and Saturday's rain was no exception. Prior to the rain, I saw palm branches blown around on streets and in parking lots. There was even a Port-a-Potty blown on its side in the parking lot where I picked up my last order; I'm glad I don't have to clean that up. But the best thing about a storm for me is the smell of the rain. It's a fresh, unmistakable scent that defies description. It's just the smell of a desert rain.
Saturday night I parked in a fast-food lot to wait the rain out, as it was coming down hard and the wind was still blowing. These storms usually don't last long, and I didn't want to risk the drive home on a dark and stormy night. I watched as the rain fell heavily on my windshield. It had been 100 degrees at 8 PM according to my car thermostat; 20 minutes into the storm the temperature had dropped 30 degrees. It was cooler, but the rain brings increased humidity, so it still feels kind of steamy. Bright lightning flashed all around me in the first five minutes. After that, the storm subsided to a steady rain, which eventually stopped by 8:30. I drove home to find that no rain had fallen in my neighborhood at all, even though the rain was torential just a few miles away. In other words, it was a typical monsoon storm.
I got out of my car and took a brief walk to look at the sky. The clouds were gone and the stars were bright as ever. Tucson is a "dark" city on purpose; our streetlights and community lighting are purposely kept low so that the stars in the night sky will be more visible. This is great for the several observatories in the area, but also for people like me, who just love night in the desert. I listened to the stillness, punctuated by the occasional coyote howl, and reminded myself again how much I love living in the desert. I feel more lonely than I have at any time since moving here. But I'm still content. And with the monsoon storms' return, the stifling summer heat will be bearable until it cools down again in September. Living with the desert heat is a small price to pay for the the gift of desert storms.