Saturday, July 27, 2013

Rain, Glorious Rain; or Too Much of a Good Thing

We went up to Cuba yesterday for lunch -- a 230 mile round trip to be sure, but it is one of the most scenic drives in New Mexico, among so many scenic drives, and the weather was beautiful for such an adventure.

We saw dark clouds gathering on the Jemez Mountains, and we could locate where the rain was falling in the draws and ravines and side canyons. There was none near the road or our destinations, but parts of the high ramparts of the mountains looked to be getting well soaked. Good. Cut down on the fires, break some of the drought.

When we got back to Albuquerque in the afternoon, the sky in the north was still very dark, but the storm, if that's what it was, seemed to be stationary. We stopped at the Sandia Casino to look around and play a bit -- we hadn't been there since its expansion more than ten years ago (I think) -- and when we chatted with some of the staff, they said there had been torrential rains in the late afternoon, early evening for days, and they were worried it would happen again. Little did they -- or we -- know.

Out in the Estancia Valley, we'd been getting a little bit of light rain now and again, but nothing memorable since the first day of monsoon rain on June 30. There was rain every day for about 2 weeks, then scattered infrequent showers except along the mountain sides where the rains were sometimes measured in inches per hour -- or seemed to be. We didn't realize the rains had been so severe or so frequent in Albuquerque lately.

When we left the casino around 5:30pm or so, the sky was pretty dark in the north, and there appeared to be some showers falling on the Sandias, but not a lot and not extensively. As we drove along Tramway there was no rain at all, and it was dry going through the Tijeras Canyon. The clouds in the east were lit up gloriously by the early evening sun, just beautiful piles and piles of brilliant white, like the fanciest vanilla ice cream scoops in the sky.

After we got back to our place, we did our usual futzing about, and I said I'd go into town (locally) to pick up mail (we don't have home delivery) and rustle up some grub for dinner at the rib joint. When I got there, the place was hopping. It was after all Friday Night Cruise Night, and we were on Route 66 in summer time, so what do you expect?  Nice cars! Big line for ribs and chicken and stuff, so I had a fairly long wait. Checked out the vehicles, chatted with neighbors and other folks, and all of us watched the darkening skies in the north. Deep, deep dark grays and purples lit here and there with pink and orange fringes from the setting sun, and now and then flashes of silver from the lightning inside the clouds.

"Oh shit. This is going to be a bad one," someone said out on the patio. "Nah, ya think? Really?"

"Yah, look a that," pointing to the massive black cloud looming ever closer. "It's gonna be hell."

"Nah, we'll be lucky if it drops anything."

"Just you wait. I say, take cover, and better get these cars under wraps, too."

The mention of the cars actually spurred some action, and some of the more persnickety owners started closing them up. One older couple closed up their Chrysler and drove away. The man with the Malibu SS was kind of running around trying to make sure he didn't leave anything on the ground, and the older guy I didn't know with the '55 Bel Air shot out of the parking lot, his exhaust pipes rumbling.

As I was watching the cars, and the care that was being taken to keep them safe from the storm, I thought of a chat we were having with our visiting friend from California about old cars and the Mother Road through New Mexico. Her late husband, who was from New Mexico, claimed all the "good cars" were in California; New Mexico had been stripped pretty much bare. Until last night, I would have agreed. Last night, in a tiny village in rural New Mexico, there was a nice, not large, display of old cars, all -- well, mostly -- in excellent shape, and all local, most of which I had never seen before, not being much for Friday Night Cruise Night ordinarily. I'd passed by several other local old car displays but this was the first time I'd stopped and actually paid attention. The cars are here, they just aren't on the road a lot, I guess.

Meanwhile, the storm was building and moving very slowly to the south. The wind was picking up, but the monster cloud bank didn't seem to be getting any closer. Most of what was being blown around was dust, and I thought for a time we might be in for another fierce dust storm instead of rain.

Nevertheless, when I got back to our place, I said, "Strap in, they said this one's gonna be rough." At that point there was really no sign of anything but some wind outside -- well, and that huge dark cloud bank in the north.

We turned on the teevee to see if there were any warnings.

Sure. Enough.

The teevee weather people were going crazy, showing the live shots of total rain-out from their various Storm-Cams, and saying "Take cover! Now!"

Oh. WTF? It was raining beyond torrentially in Albuquerque. They said there were reports of funnel clouds, the wind was clocked at 89 miles an hour at the Sunport, there was quarter-sized hail, complete white-out conditions (proved by the live cams), flooded roads, electricity out (one of stations went out for a time), massive, massive storm moving slowly south along the Rio Grande Valley, "take cover! Now!"

Whoa. At that point, it hadn't even started raining here.

We had our supper, anticipating the coming storm, and realizing -- or not realizing as the case may be -- that our somewhat snippy attitudes toward one another were partly due to the air pressure changes and electrical discharges as the storm geared up for what was to come. On the teevee, Albuquerque and points south along the Rio Grande were just getting hammered. It was quite the spectacle to hear about; there weren't a lot of pictures yet, but they said conditions outside were terrible, just terrible, stay inside, don't try to go anywhere if you don't have to.

Then the rains started here, gently at first, nice, quiet, good for a soak. Then the rains came on harder and harder, till it sounded like the roof might give way under the downpour; lightning was flashing, thunder was crashing, and the rains came down in torrents. The street our house is on filled with water, all the way across, and it ran like a river for hours. I've seen plenty of heavy rain here over the years, but none that lasted that long. It went on and on and on. I've been told about previous storms that lasted so long, but this was the first time I'd seen one.

Because it was warm, I'd left the sheltered front door open for air. Well, I should have kept my eye on it. Though the door is sheltered nearly ten feet in from the roofline, the water got in, and the foyer was nearly flooded from the rain. Oh.

Everything outside took on a kind of glittery aura from all the water cascading down the street, through the trees, dripping from the eaves, and building up in puddles all over. It was amazing.

Then it tapered off and stopped. I'm looking out the back door now; the chickens at Evangelina's are crowing lustily. She was so worried about them last night, for they don't really have that much shelter, and she and her husband were trying to jury-rig something fast before the downpour commenced. They managed to get something up, but we didn't see how well it was holding in the storm.

Looking out now, it's fine, and the chickens seem happy. What I notice is no dogs, and only a couple of our feral cats are out and about. The ground is soaked, and there are still puddles here and there. The street, though, is mostly dry, and the sky is absolutely clear, not a cloud to be seen anywhere.

We got through it.

Now to assess any damage, and to wonder how many were swept away in the arroyos last night...


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