August 30th, 2007

ripleys

Extreme Dog Walking '07

It seems like I make a post like this every year during monsoon season. Extreme Dog Walking is a sport I invented several years ago. That is when you take your dog for a walk up on the very flat, very open mesa top during a thunderstorm. There are only a few pinon trees scattered about, so you are pretty much the tallest thing around. It really gets your heart going when you're up there and you experience a *flash* *boom!*

I have grouped the thunderstorms into 3 categories. First there is the dying storm. It could be throwing off lightning, and you can see the rain streaking down. The cloud structure, however, is collapsing. The thunder claps become fewer and fewer. It is usually well-behaved and you can track its movement. Normally it's not a big worry, but you can get surprised by a last hurrah of a lightning strike. Then there is the well-behaved storm. This one could be throwing off lightning right and left, but it is very well organized and moving in a predictable pattern. This happens quite often. There is a black wall heading your way, but the sky above you is still blue. You can easily gauge the movement of the storm and take appropriate action. The only problem with these storms is that they can be extremely active. I have seen bolts of lightning travel over miles. You might get surprised by a "bolt from the blue." Finally there is the storm that I hate. This is the storm that builds up directly over you. You start your hike and there are dark clouds all around. There is no lightning or thunder. You never can tell if it will actually rain or just be really cloudy. Sometimes you try to wait it out, but many times it blows away or just never develops. Sometimes you go ahead and start your walk. Usually you get to the furthest point in the walk when it starts throwing off lightning bolts. You have no alternative but to just keep on walking and hopefully get to the mesa's edge where you can bail off. You might get arcing cloud to cloud right over your head. Worse case is that the cloud above you is just crackling with electricity. A few times I started to taste the ozone in my mouth. Yeah. Not a good situation.

Last night was a little bit of the developing storm scenario for me. Before I leave work I always check the National Weather Service website to get the latest radar images. I could see that there was little rhyme or reason into where storms were popping up. There was no nice line of storms moving in a predictable manner. It was pretty cloudy when I got home, but I decided to take Mesa on his walkies anyways. Anubis is now officially too old to go for walkies. He is limping rather badly but still gets around. If we take him around the block, he tends to get very fatigued by the end. One thing he has over Mesa is a sense of storm danger. In the past he would frequently turn around and head home if he thought a storm was approaching. He would see lightning way off in the distance and refuse to go on. Of course his stupid master would force him to continue. Mesa, on the other paw, takes off like a retarded puppy and goes charging up the hill chasing bunnies, both real and imaginary. We got a little ways into the walk when I could hear the thunder getting more intense. I decided to take a route that would keep us close to the mesa's edge. There were a few flashes of lightning, but always more than 10 seconds away. 10 seconds = approximately 11,000' or 2 miles. Finally there came a nice bright streak that you could tell hit the earth. 5 seconds. OK. Time to bail. The storm also decided that it was now time to open up. As we raced down the mesa we were pelted with huge drops of rain. It made no sense in running since we were already getting soaked. It was a nice warm rain so I decided just to enjoy it. We were a couple of blocks from home and I hoped tall street lamps and houses would give us a little safety from the lightning if any decided to strike nearby. I was thinking about the video I saw on CNN.com a few weeks ago of little girls running down a street during a rainstorm when a bolt of lightning hit about 6' in front of them. They just kept on running. I probably would too, but I would definitely need a change of underwear when I got home.

By the time we got home we were both thoroughly soaked. Fortunately Kitty had the foresight to have towels waiting for us. We dried off under the patio cover as the storm pounded the area. There were even brief periods of hail. I waited in anticipation for a stream to come pouring down the arroyo that leads right towards my back wall. The canal I had dug last year was partially filled in with drift sand. As soon as I saw any water I would be up there with a shovel. Fortunately the storm was not quite intense enough to cause that type of runoff. Soon it stopped and I was able to go put on some dry clothes. Mesa was dry enough that he could come inside and chill with us. Anubis just sort of looked at us with a, "Boy, you're stupid!" look.
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