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Rain shaft heading straight for us.  Torrential rain began to fall just a 1/2 hour after I took this picture.

You would think that living in the desert – that we don’t get much rain.
While it’s true that we don’t get as much rain as most people, we do experience periods of torrential, summer rains.
That has certainly been true, this summer.
Actually, this week, we have had rain every day – often very heavy. 
I had a landscape consultation yesterday and the back yard was not landscaped – there was just plain dirt, which had turned to mud.
My shoes are still muddy and drying out in the garage 😉

Approaching thunderstorms as seen from Double S Farms.
My garden has enjoyed the rainfall.  I have shut off my sprinklers and drip irrigation because there is a danger of over-watering plants.

My husband is very happy with how nice our back lawn looks.  The rain and high humidity have really brought out its best.  (The entire garden is my domain, except for our lawn – that is my husband’s).
  
Unfortunately, we aren’t the only ones who have enjoyed our wet, humid summer – so have the mosquitos.  We have gone through 1/2 a bottle of repellent in just 5 days 😉

And so, as the rain threatens to fall again tonight, I will cheerfully sweep the entry and patio for the fourth time this week because I know all too soon the rain will taper off and become an infrequent visitor.

One of the things that I love about living in the Southwest, is the monsoon season that arrives every summer.

Sporadic, often violent storms come and dump a lot of rain in a short amount of time.

To deal with the large amount of water, you will see catchment basins in neighborhoods and also around businesses.  These catchment basins help to keep areas from flooding.

In our neighborhood, we have a few catchment basins and when they fill up, it is time for fun…
My husband, our two youngest kids and our dogs came out to play in the water.

The dogs jumped right in….so did the kids.
Our two little dogs, Tobey and Max had to swim because the water was so deep.
I was surprised that they liked it as much as they did.
Gracie and Kai decided to race across the water.
Gracie won, but then I think that Kai fell on purpose because he wanted to get wet all the way.  It’s funny how that seems to happen to Kai a lot.
Tobey took a break from the fun and watched Kai challenge Max to a race…
Max won….because Kai fell in the water again 😉
We had fun playing in the water, but soon it was time for the fun to end.
Kai needed a little help getting home….

After living in the Desert Southwest for 26 years not, I should be used to this by now…

A beautiful afternoon sky that is soon to be overtaken by…
DUST!
The monsoon season (rainy season) is officially upon us.  While I like the rain, I don’t particularly like the occasional dust storms that appear ‘out of the blue’ to speak literally.
I guess that I should be grateful that it isn’t an enormous one like we received last year…
That one was a ‘monster’ haboob (another word for dust storm).
But I must admit, that it was an exciting experience…
I wrote about it last year, if you would like to see more photos of this enormous dust storm.

Saguaros can be affected by high winds and heavy rain just as trees are.  During windy weather, I love to observe saguaros swaying gently in the breeze.  In the summertime in Arizona, we have a monsoon season.  The word “monsoon” means “wind shift” or “season”.  This shift in the wind brings warm, moist air from Mexico which causes brief, intense storms.  Heavy rain, lightning, and high winds are a common occurrence during this time.  Sadly, this saguaro, (above), did not survive the latest monsoon storm of that summer.

This large giant fell in a landscape area in the community where I worked as a horticulturist.  This was one of my favorite saguaro cacti.  There had been a few consecutive days of heavy rain and wind, which caused this beautiful saguaro to fall.  *To get an idea of how large this saguaro was, the man walking in front of it is over 6 ft. tall.

There were two other casualties besides the saguaro cactus itself.  As many of you may know, some types of birds make their homes in saguaros.  This particular saguaro was home to a Cactus Wren and her babies. 

 

A couple of days ago, I was busy cooking dinner when I got a call from my husband who was on his way home from work.  He said that there was a haboob on the way.

Okay, some of you may be wondering what the heck a ‘haboob’ is.  Well, the word ‘haboob’ is an Arabic word that describes a dust or sand storm.  Here in the Phoenix area, we don’t have sand, so our haboobs are made up of dust.


Now dust storms aren’t too unusual during our summer monsoon season in the Southwest, but the one that was coming, according to my husband was monstrous.  So, I decided it would be a good opportunity to blog about it, so I went outside with my son, Kai, to watch its approach and take pictures to share with you.

At first, it doesn’t look like much, but as you progress down through the pictures, you can see the progression of the haboob.

You can just see the dust cloud in the distance behind the homes.








Okay, at this point, my camera battery died.  So, I went inside to get our other camera only to find that its battery was also dead.  I couldn’t believe it…..this was a once in a lifetime weather experience and I had no camera!

But, then my husband arrived home from work and rescued me by taking pictures with his iPhone just as the storm was hitting.

And then it was dark….



 You can barely see Kai through the blowing dust….

At this point, we went inside and I actually had grit in my teeth….I won’t mention what my hair looked like 😉
The haboob was 3,000 ft. high and more then 30 miles wide.  It brought winds of 69 mph, some of which broke off some branches of my Mexican Bird-of-Paradise tree.
 
Just over at Double S Farms, my sister got photos of the storm approaching their house as well.

 


I am a total weather geek and I was thrilled to have witnessed a dust storm of this size.

Now, I just have to sweep the dust off my patio and wash the dust off of my plants with the hose 🙂


I apologize, but life is kind of crazy this week, so I promise that I will get to back to my ‘Tree Planting’ posts soon.  In the meantime, I would like to share with you one of my favorite posts that I wrote about 1 1/2 years ago.  I was rather new at blogging at the time so most of you probably have not read it.  I hope you enjoy it 🙂

When people think of a desert, most envision a place of intense heat, sparse plants, snakes and lots of sand.  Well, some of that is true, but there is much, much more which I have discovered.  I am not a native desert dweller.  In fact, I was born and raised near the beach in Southern California and I never thought that I would live in the desert.  However, here I am, having lived in Arizona for over 23 years and I wouldn’t have it any other way….

All of the photos were taken in an area about 30 minutes northeast of Phoenix.

The desert that I live in is called the Sonoran Desert and it occupies over 120,000 sq. miles covering parts of Arizona, California and Mexico.  Although deserts around the world do not receive much rainfall, the Sonoran Desert receives more then any other desert in the world.  We have two seasons of rain.  In the winter our storms come from the west from the Pacific coast and the rains are usually gentle.  In the summer our rains come up from Mexico and are called “monsoons”, which means “wind shift”.  These summer storms are sporadic and result in torrential rainfall and high winds.  Often, when we receive these torrential downpours, my kids and I just stand inside our front door, just watching the rain.

By the way…..you know you are an ‘official’ desert dweller when you rejoice whenever it rains.

Because of our dual rainy seasons, the Sonoran Desert has the most animal and plant species of any North American desert.  We have over 2,000 native plant species alone.  In the spring, the desert is awash in wildflowers and cactus blooms.  The rain brings out the distinct, yet pleasing, scent of the Creosote bush (if you rub the leaves in your fingers, it smells like the rain).  I live in zone 8b and we do experience occasional freezing conditions during the winter. 

Interestingly, the western part of the Sonoran Desert, located in California (Palm Springs and surrounding area), is regarded as a sub-desert called the Colorado Desert.  It differs in appearance and in that the soils are sandy, there is less rainfall in the summer and as a result there is less plant density and native plant species.  The Saguaro cactus does not grow naturally in the Colorado Desert.  If you have a chance to drive across the California – Arizona border, you can see the difference as you cross over the Colorado River.  This sub-desert has a beauty of it’s own and I enjoy visiting this part of the Sonoran Desert.
The Sonoran Desert is a fascinating place with cactus and snakes  (I rarely see them), but is also filled with trees, shrubs, flowers and wildlife.  Far from being a barren wasteland, this desert is full of life and beauty.


It is my home….

Yesterday evening, I started to see the signs….


Gusty winds, thunder clouds, the smell of rain in the air and raindrops starting to fall.  A monsoon storm was on it’s way.


Clouds gathering over my house and Eucalyptus tree.

When I first moved to the desert southwest from California, I was quite surprised that it rained in the desert frequently in the summer months.  Where I came from, summer rain was quite rare.

Another surprise awaited me when I experienced my first monsoon storm….flying dust followed by high winds, thunderclouds, lightning and torrential downpours – these were definitely things that I had not experienced in California.

*The Sonoran Desert has two rainy seasons, one in the winter and one in the summer.  Because of this our desert has the most animal and plant species of any North American desert.  We have over 2,000 native plant species alone.  

Although I love monsoon storms, I would dread going to work the day afterward because I knew that there could be a lot of tree damage to deal with due to the high winds…especially on the golf courses.  I would have to personally check all of the trees…some were completely blown over with roots sticking out and my crew would quickly cut them up.  Other trees would half in and half out of the soil and I would have to decide if we could save them or not.  

One summer brought a severe micro-burst over the area where I worked and the damage to the trees on the golf courses were thankfully, minimal, except for a large Saguaro cactus that was lost and just a handful of trees.


However, it was the damaged trees that I saw as a result of the storm in the residential areas that was shocking. 

There were the trees that had been completely blown over…

 Fallen Mesquite

 Fallen Palo Verde

 Fallen Ironwood

Some trees were completely snapped off at their base….

  Palo Verde

Some trees that completely lost their head…literally.

  This Palo Verde snapped off halfway up the trunk.

Some trees looked like they were swallowing up homes….
 

Although we did suffer some losses on the golf courses and landscape areas, the homeowners were hit the hardest in regards to damaged trees – mostly because their trees were either somewhat top-heavy or had not been pruned recently, or pruned correctly.  

You may be asking, what can I do to avoid having this happen to my tree?  Well, there are some steps that you can take to help prevent wind damage, BUT even if you maintain your trees correctly, wind damage may be unavoidable.  Following these tips will increase your chances of escaping severe wind damage, but nothing can totally prevent it due to circumstances beyond your control.

First, you may notice that all the trees in the pictures had a single (standard) trunk.  Imagine holding a lollipop at the base of the stick.  The top of the lollipop is quite heavy, isn’t it?  Well, this is the same for many single trunk trees.  Many desert trees such as Mesquite, Palo Verde, Sweet Acacia and Ironwood are available in both standard (single) or multi-trunk forms.  In my opinion, multi-trunk trees are more attractive in addition to the fact that they are less likely to suffer damage from wind because the weight of the branches is more evenly distributed among multiple tree trunks.

Second, proper pruning will help your trees to weather the storms.  I would always schedule our annual tree pruning to be done before the monsoon season would begin.  The International Society of Arboriculture has excellent information on how to prune mature trees which can be found here.  Trees add lots of value to your house – not just aesthetically, but in dollars as well.  So, it is worth the investment to hire a Certified Arborist to advise you on the correct way to prune your trees.  Most also offer pruning services for your trees as well.   *You can find a Certified Arborist in your area by following this link.

Last, make sure that your trees are watered correctly.  Trees need to be watered deeply, so that their roots will grow down into the soil.  Repeated shallow watering results in tree roots that are close to the surface and are not able to anchor a tree against high winds. 


As I write this, I see storm clouds gathering to the east.  I am hoping for a nice rainstorm tonight, without the high winds 😉