Saturday, February 23, 2013

Desert Snowstorm, South-East Arizona

Desert Snowstorm, South-East Arizona

The first clue the weather was changing when all the folks from the mid-west started getting alerts on their smartphones for a blizzard warning for Tucson and the surrounding area.   Their were a lot of comments about a blizzard in Tucson, and the National Weather Service quickly started at issuing clarifications.  Seems their alert system is "county-wide".  However, the blizzard warning was only for those above 3000 foot elevation.  The National alert system must have be devised in the eastern part of the United States where elevation does not change much within a county.

In our case, we are camped 3800 feet so we were waiting for our first blizzard in well over 50 years or so!!
In eastern Washington, blizzard warnings are very rare since you need WIND and SNOW to create a blizzard.  Oh, we get WIND and we get SNOW, but hardly ever at the same time.  Most of our snow gently swirls as it falls through the atmosphere under completely calm conditions.

We also get very little moisture from the sky in Wenatchee.  Quite a bit, however, comes via pipes from the Wenatchee and Columbia Rivers.  God, after all made rain for those people without developed irrigation systems.  The annual precipitation is 9.2 inches compared with 11.4 for Tucson.  Not sure if we had to spend year-round in Tucson if we could handle to 20% plus increase in precipitation!!

So the blizzard was a new weather event for us.  The previous nights warning found a warm and sunny morning once the sun rose in the east.  Then about noon the temperature went from 55 degrees to 30 degrees in less than an hour.  The wind started and the official start of the blizzard was announced by the power going on-off several times during that first hour.

Ok, it was not much of a blizzard.  However if you notice the picture of the cactus at left.....the snow is on ONE side only.  Notice no snow on the top of the cactus.

For a blizzard of about a couple hours duration it was interesting.  The wind was more of an issue than the snow.

One thing about desert snowstorms.  The ground is usually still above freezing, so any snow falling on the ground and road services tends to melt fairly quickly.

It takes a longer duration snow event to pile up enough snow to cover the streets and desert floor.

That event took place that night.

Throughout the night it snowed "gently".  Much more like the storms in Wenatchee.  That morning there was enough snow to coat the desert floor.

Notice that there is more snow on the plants than on the ground!

For Bugaboo this did not even register as a snowstorm.  Normally, at home after a snowstorm he runs outside, flips on his back and rubs the snow into his fur.

He then lays for hours in the snow.  Must be that German blood in his veins.

Here he just ignored the snow.  That ball up in the tree has had his attention for over two weeks now.  He can see it, but there is no way for him to climb the tree to get it.

So every time we start our desert walk in the morning he heads for the "ball tree" and sees if the wind had brought the ball down during the night.

No such luck even if after the Arizona Blizzard of 2013!

Still the desert was fun to hike in the snow.  We did see that the jackrabbit population is a bit higher than we previously estimated by the tracks in the snow.  Definitely, looked like only the rabbits were moving about and everybody else was waiting for it to melt.  No other tracks.  Even the coyotes decided to sleep in.

I worried a little bit about Bugaboo not seeing the cactus spines in the snow.  But he came back cactus free.

By noon, the great Arizona snowstorm was just a fond memory.  And the best part was NOT having to blow or shovel snow!

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