We who live on the North Rim are doing a rain dance. A little tease July 1st as dark clouds filled with thunder rolled over the Kaibab Plateau yet only a few minutes of light and playful rain fell during the 1pm Way Cool Canyon program designed for young visitors/kids. Grand Canyon monsoon, right on time. Let it rain!
The following day clouds were building at 1pm when I left the Visitor Center.
An hour later back on the rim for a rove to the Grand Lodge the sun still shone through in places.
But things were looking a little more serious over the South Rim.
As I set up for a geology talk on the verandah the sky distracted me as it did for the few visitors taking photos like myself. Yet they kept an eye on me and one commented that it must be safe. “I’ll follow the Ranger.”
The storm swept eastward across the South Rim, occasional lightning made the watchers “oo and aa” as if at a fireworks display on the 4th of July. “Is it raining in the canyon Ranger?” Maybe, but probably not very far down. The rising heat often evaporates the rain before it ever hits the ground called virga. Predicted 108F at Phantom Ranch along the river today.
As if to prove me wrong the shifting wind brings the first giant rain drops yet allows time for all to move indoors, including me with a box full of rocks and carefully protected camera. People settled and talk of geology began on time at 3pm while clouds of rain obscured the south rim leaving Oza Butte (closest peak on the right) as an island of rich layered colors. A cool refreshing breeze slipped through open windows.
40 minutes later, camera wrapped in a plastic bag for just this purpose, I hurried back to the Visitor Center only 100 yards of light rain under dark sky. For the next half hour, non-stop, I directed visitors to the dry lodge hopefully for a view, and suggested they stay off the rim during nearby thunder and lightning. Repeatedly asked question, “when will it stop raining?”
Remember as a kid when you learned to count between the lightning and thunder, “One, one thousand, two, one thousand, three, one thousand…” According to NOAA (National Weather Service) every five seconds counted equals the lightning being a mile away and recommends getting to a safe location at 30 seconds, or 6 miles away. You definitely don’t want to be the tallest thing on the rim during a storm, taking photos or leaning on a metal rail. Last year at Cape Royal overlook I saw a little girls hair lifting and sent visitors back to their cars in a hurry.
By 5pm, when I left the Visitor Center the rain had stopped leaving the slightest bit of moisture under the pines, even a few small puddles in the parking lot. I felt the forest sigh, the smell of fresh washed air divine. The soil, unfortunately is dry in less than 1/4 inch.
After dinner I gave a “campfireless” talk due to fire restrictions. It is not enough rain, yet, to be playing with fire. Will it rain tonight? Probably not I tell campers. But tomorrow is a different story. Hiking before 11am stands a better chance of sunshine. Afternoon rains are likely so be prepared. Let it rain!