Decaying thunderstorms from the north (up near Sunset Point) sent out a gust front, moving in a southerly direction at 30 knots. A decaying line of storm cells near Picacho Peak (and points east) sent out a more impressive gust front in the opposite direction, moving in excess of 40 knots.
I mentioned my radar observation to several staff members (not that they cared all that much):
"Those gust fronts will collide somewhere near (and along) Camelback Road, thus bisecting the southern half of Phoenix."
And where they collided (a few miles south of where I predicted), a line of thunderstorms did blow up, giving us our first localized thunderstorms of the monsoon season.
And that's why I was outside in the first place, intent on watching nature's proceedings.
But there was a problem. Heat. The blasted heat. The blasting heat. It was still 109° at 9:45 p.m. (which when you think of it, is ludacris). Despite that, I risked imminent dehydration and made my way towards elevation. My objective: attain a panoramic view.
Even knowing the storms were fairly close, I risked it, taking off feet first (literally kicking the door open). Then after pushing through the back door I went around the back parking lot, around to the front of the building, and then made a hard right through the thick gravel, then up the bike trail.
As I'm rolling along at 6.4 mph, I looked off to my right, over towards Scottsdale. I don't like what I see. The cumulus clouds look especially blurry, like billowing cotton balls set in motion. Then it dawns on me. Those aren't cloud behaviors. And those aren't clouds.
Dust storm! It's a f****** massive dust storm!!
Within seconds I was a top my pedestrian perch. Assessing. And oh my, the dust storm looked fierce.
Note: nighttime dust storms are rare. Usually by late evening, the thunderstorms have lost their oomph, due to the lack of daytime heating. Or they aren't positioned in the necessary way (southeast of the valley).
Lookout Mountain was clearly visible from my vantage point. But Camelback Mountain, and all the way across to Piestewa Peak, were obscured by the dust. That meant the storm was no more than five miles due south of my location. So if it was heading in my direction at 40 knots, the wall of dust would overtake me within two or three minutes.
I briefly thought about warning my friends at the homeless encampment, but the storm was coming on too fast and too strong, so I busted my way back down the bike trail, angling to get indoors before the brunt of the storm hit. And luckily I did. Almost.
I stopped short at the back door; the heavy metal door with the key code pad. I wanted to witness the storm's approach, before retiring indoors. I reassured myself (perhaps foolishly), thinking that perhaps the storm wasn't as strong as it looked from a few miles out. I mean, we hadn't even received a dust storm warning from the national weather service!
Then all of a sudden I saw the distant palm trees swaying - the trees a couple hundred yards out. My heart rate quickened. Then I saw the same distant palm trees becoming shrouded by dust. Then the trees nearest me started bending, with small branches breaking. A swirl of dust was born before me. And then all sorts of debris came flying free. Twigs, branches, leaves, dirt, dust, and garbage debris.
I did my best to pull open the rear access door, but the wind was blowing too strongly. My guess? In excess of 60 mph! I gave up, momentarily… thinking the severe winds would surely subside.
For several dozen seconds, it was a semi-dangerous scene, until I was finally able to pry the door open (between wind gusts), wedging my chair in between the door frame and the heavy metal door itself.
That's when the lightning bolts began raining down. So I fully squeezed back inside.
In essence, my chair is a lightning rod of sorts. There's a lot of metal on my chair, especially including the t-shaped metal feeding post hanger fixed to the back of my chair. It's the kind of metal that conducts electricity lickety split, through and through.
Once inside, I was grounded - I can't get my power chair controller wet, as I wouldn't want to risk it shorting out. Plus all that lightning.
We received no more than 17 drops of rain. Or perhaps 37 drops. It's difficult to count from the inside looking out. And really, that's been the extent of our monsoon season. Although, one recent early morning, we did have a few sprinkles of rain. That may have been about ten days ago. Not exactly sure.
The monsoon season is also our rainy season. But rain we have not had. And hardly any dust either. Just heat. Nothing but the heat.
I visited my homeless pals the following morning. Not surprisingly, their encampment below the overpass was in disarray, at least, more so than usual. And so were they. Although, they did seem kind of jazzed up while recapping their individual experiences. They seem to feed off of chaos. Which I understand. In some respects, we all like different random things happening. The unexpected. At least I do. And so do they. Improvising and adapting makes living real.
Note: That was also the morning I first met Beeswax. He ducked underneath the overpass at the last minute, looking for cover. And he's been dwelling there ever since.
Note II: I checked the weather station data once I got back inside, and the wind gusts ranged from 63 to 78 mph, within a three mile radius of my location.
Thank you for reading (and take care),