It was a blue sky, not a cloud anywhere at 9 a.m. Nothing that would suggest what lay ahead. The grand-daddies of all winter storms were out there to the west somewhere. And coming this way.
This barrage is lining up out in the Pacific like giant jetliners at Sky Harbor on Thanksgiving weekend.
Storm No. 1, the mild first wave, struck yesterday and left only 14/100 of an inch. Forecasters say the second of the big storms will bury us in rainfall by nighttime. And maybe, by the time all the storms have passed, more rain will have been recorded than the 4 inches we had all of last year. As weather goes in drought-ridden Arizona, this is gigantic news.
I thought I would do my part by recording what actually happens this week, as seen from my house in central Phoenix.
January 19, Tuesday
9:34 a.m. — Sunny, still not a cloud in the sky, and 55 degrees. A light breeze blows in from the east.
11:09 a.m. — Lonely puffs of white cumulus moving in from the west. Temp 60, equalling the high of yesterday. Very light breeze.
12:33 p.m. — Mostly cloudy with cumulus, much of it dark gray. Temp 65, with light southerly breeze. This must be what’s it’s like waiting on a hurricane.
4:30 p.m. — Completely overcast with dark clouds. Temp 61, down from high of 71. Light breeze. Reports of sprinkles at Metrocenter to the north.
5:19 p.m. — Steady rain has begun. Temp 59. Channel 10 showing heavy rain in outlying areas. I feel left out of the party.
6:23 p.m. — Just returned from a half-mile walk in a steady rain to the corner coffee shop. Helicopter flying east, back to TV station I assume after covering the storm. Cap and jeans bottoms soaked. Temp 56.
8:51 p.m. — Rain has lightened up. Already 70/100 of an inch in gauge on the fence. That matches the biggest single rain of last year, on August 13. Temp 55.
10:00 p.m. — The winter storm is the lead 10 o’clock news story on all local TV stations.
10:49 p.m. — Rain has stopped after a flurry about 9:30. The gauge now shows 80/100 of an inch for the day, a very nice soaking rain, and the largest single-day total my gauge has recorded since August 14, 2008. An even bigger storm is forecast for tomorrow night or Thursday.
January 20, Wednesday
9:43 a.m. — Sunny, 51 degrees, light breeze from east. Storm No. 2 is gone and Storm No. 3, the forecasted big one, is muscling up to the west. Gauge held another 5/100 of rain from overnight. That makes the total for Storm No. 2 a very good 85/100 at our house.
1:40 p.m. — Sunny, not a cloud in sight, 63, with a very light westerly breeze.
2:17 p.m. — Like yesterday, lonely puffs of white cumulus have started to move in from the west, alerts for us from the weather gods. Temp 64, very light southerly breeze.
5:34 p.m. — A ring of blue sky has hovered over Phoenix all afternoon. Like a bull’s-eye. Storm No. 3 is just now beginning to cross the Colorado River into Arizona, according to TV radar. The vanguard clouds retreated to the edges of the Valley, and here at sundown, some cirrus grace the western horizon. Temp 59, light breeze from east.
6:09 p.m. — Scary news on Channel 10. Mayor’s warning. Sand-bagging in suburb of Glendale. Forecasts: Winds of 30-40 mph, gusts to 60. Rainfall of 2-4 inches in Phoenix, 5-6 inches in higher elevations, Possibly more than all of last year. Weatherman Dave Munsey saying he can’t remember a storm like this one’s potential in his 35 years here. Sheriff Joe Arpaio warning drivers of crossing barricaded washes and the state’s “stupid motorists law.” Flagstaff, in the northern mountains, getting ready for 3 feet of snow. It’s insane news for desert dwellers. We have mostly clear skies still, 57, very light breeze.
7:30 p.m. — Walked home from coffee at the corner under a starlit sky. Nothing, absolutely nothing, to hint at an approaching storm. A waxing crescent moon high in the west, a fast-disappearing Jupiter in the WSW and jetliners queueing up for eastward landing at Sky Harbor. Temp 54, calm.
11:04 p.m. — Clouds now commandeer the night sky. Still no rain. My big concerns are flooding of the basement and garage. Nebra and I did our best at rain-proofing both with garbage bags, wallboard and bricks. Temp has actually warmed a few degrees to 56. Only a slight southerly breeze.
January 21, Thursday
12:32 a.m. — All quiet on this western front at bedtime. Cloudy, 56, same light breeze from south.
2:33 a.m. — Awoke briefly to find a light rain falling. Temp 54, wind has picked up.
9:54 a.m. — Rainfall 35/100 overnight, Steady rain. Temp 56 after low of 52. And it’s windy. I throw leaves straight up in the air from the back porch and watch them sail east and land about three feet from where I stand. Republic headline atop Front Page this morning: `Monster storm bears down on state.’
12:26 p.m. — Gauge reads 40/100. I thought this lion of a storm held more ferocity. So far, it’s been a calm, steady rain that is expected to last into tomorrow evening. Temp 58. Still windy.
5:45 p.m. — Steady rain all afternoon. Gauge now approaching 1/2 inch. A mere smattering compared to suburbs like Surprise to the northeast where 2.75 inches have been reported. Tornado Watch until 10 o’clock. Channel 10 says parts of I-40 to close between Kingman and Winslow. Ditto I-17 between Camp Verde and Flagstaff. Temp 59 with stout southerly wind.
8:25 p.m. — Stepped out of the gym into a cold, swirling torrential rain. Ran about 30 steps to the car, and the wet bullets left me soaked. I struggled to keep my balance in the gale. This is the heaviest rain so far of the three storms. Phoenix has no storm drains and the street near our house is one huge lake.
10:52 p.m. — Back to a steady rain and light breeze. Now there’s 1.10 inches in the gauge. Temp 50. Wickenburg, about 60 miles to the northwest reported over 4 inches already, and this storm is far from over. It’s wave after wave after wave. Basement is relatively dry, thanks to our preventive measures of last night.
January 22, Friday
12:02 a.m. — The rainmaker has stopped. I pour the day’s total, 1.10 inches, from the gauge on the two-year-old houseplant, a croton, and place the empty glass tube back on the fence to await a refill. That makes 2.02 inches at my house since these storms began on the 18th. The Bougainvillea branches nod in a modest breeze by the back porch. Outside it is a drippy, cool 50 degrees.
8:54 a.m. — Is it over? Cloudy with blue patches in the west. Only 10/100 of an inch fell here overnight. Temp 50, westerly breeze.
2:06 p.m. — Mostly sunny with scudding blobs of white east-bound cumulus. 61 degrees and a strong west breeze.
4:52 p.m. — Overcast, 56 degrees, light northbound breeze. Dark, menacing clouds passing to the south. Showers possible tonight.
6:18 p.m. — Light rain began not long ago. Temp 49.
January 23, Saturday
12:04 a.m. — Cloudy, calm, 47 degrees. Short, steady rain ened by 8:30 p.m. Day’s rain, 15/100 of an inch. Total for week’s storms, 2.22 inches.
8:08 a.m. — The day broke with bright sunshine, our big winter storm apparently gone. The last of the clouds disappear to the northeast. I pity the rest of the country as this baby moves toward the Midwest and East. Temp 41, calm.