Rains of Arizona

Winter rains soak the scorched urban landscape...

Hard rain hits this desert city so infrequently it gives a new meaning to the term desert pavement, which usually refers to the compacted sand and rock on the open range dry desert floor, that creates severe flooding runoff when it does rain. In the urban landscape there is literal man made pavement with insufficient man made drainage to handle the two seasons a year rain hits fast and furious in copious torrents. Just as the natural desert pavement is unable to absorb that amount of moisture into the ground in such a short time, neither can the manufactured pavement of a metropolitan area. It is an intensely exciting period of baptism by immersion and being washed cleaned.

Raindrops fall like bullets in rapid fire machine gun like from the stratosphere above assailing the ground. It happens so quickly with so much force that as it strikes the ground it quickly pools. Even the best inner-city drainage systems are unable to handle these storms. They're built for the gentler more subtle ones that are most likely to occur in between. Since gully washers are so infrequent in the desert the city doesn't have much opportunity to wash off the oil and grime that collects the dust and dirt of daily life. The combination of the two makes anything motorized with wheels float and glide above it with only perpetual motion and grace to guide them. It is a case of driver and all others beware for nature has momentarily asserted control.

These storms are a cause for celebration to urban and suburban desert dwellers. The sky, the air, the roofs, the buildings, the roads, everything is washed clean. The brief period when the storm is pelting the ground everything either dramatically slows or grinds to a complete stop. Indeed for awhile those caught driving in it may be in for as rough a time as intimidating as being stuck in a blizzard in Des Moines. Then slowly the streets and sidewalks drain into any overflow available eventually to make it underground where it will be stored during the long dry spell until the next storm. Life returns to normal only with a fresh, clean new start. The city has been replenished and reborn.


  1. As usual beautiful photographs and thoughtful words. Now just think if every building were equipped with rain gutters and a water tank. there would be a lot less flooding and you could grow more plants with the free water.

  2. Thanks Mary. You are so right, where I grew up in Bermuda, before we came back to Arizona, our houses were made of limestone and underneath was a large limestone tank the size of a basement. The rain ran off into the tank and that's what we had. There is very little fresh water supply and not public system so we had to carefully use what we had. We had a lush vegetable garden since it was nutrient rich from the soil and rainwater. We really need to get serious about rainwater harvesting in this country.