Direct Hit

Last night started with an amazing Arizona sunset. There were many clouds in the sky, so the colors were unusually spectacular after the sun sank behind the mountains.

You know the saying “Red in the morning, sailors take warning, red at night, sailors’ delight?” It must work backwards in the desert. When the brilliant colors had gone away, the northeast looked more like Mordor — and it was approaching.

I couldn’t even see the mountains beyond the heavy rain pouring down from these clouds. A quick check of the weather radar confirmed that they were heading in my general direction. Cells were popping up and fading away, but it made sense to pack up my camp as a precaution.

Everything went into the trailer, including the bike. I didn’t tie anything down because I wasn’t going anywhere. I quickly and somewhat haphazardly just tossed stuff in there around the bike. The only thing I left out was my rug, because it’s staked down securely and can handle getting wet.

I retreated inside and turned on the ham radio, where Gerry, KC0CAT, was already giving and getting weather reports on the Skywarn net. I checked in, told him it looked like it was coming right at me, and promised reports as it passed through. Then there was nothing to do but shut the windows and wait it out.

The wind gusts hit first, followed by heavy rain a few minutes later. Lister loudly expressed his unhappiness with the situation. I tried to comfort him while occasionally reporting into the Skywarn net. At one point my windshield cover came partly loose in the wind, but eventually I managed to get it back into place by reaching out the passenger side window. I wasn’t worried about keeping the windshield covered at this point, but didn’t want it blowing away or flapping around and getting destroyed.

The van rocked a bit in the breeze, though not nearly as much as it used to in such conditions thanks to my new heavy duty shock absorbers. I often turned on the porch lights to see how it looked outside. My main concern was flash flooding, since the entire LTVA is in a flash flood zone. Worst case, I could drive away, and hope the trailer’s ground clearance kept the items inside safe. But there was no flash flood warning, so with such a localized storm we were relatively safe. Puddles did form outside, but there was no standing water at any point.

For the first time ever, a little water leaked into the van. This didn’t even happen when I sat through a hurricane. It came in through the side door seals. These are normally covered by the doorway, but the wind was blowing the rain sideways. As luck would have it, the leak was directly above my sink! I laid out a dish towel to soak up any water that would hit the surrounding wood, but most of what leaked in simply went down the drain. How convenient!

The main part of the storm came directly overhead, bringing lightning with it. It wasn’t frequent, but several times there was less than a second between the flash and the bang. My weather app told me the closest strike was pretty much right on top of me! I’m glad I hadn’t set up Starlink on top of my ten-foot steel pole. I probably wouldn’t have Starlink anymore if I had.

Finally, the storm moved off, leaving only a light rain in its wake, and then nothing. The temperature dropped significantly, and I cranked the roof fan to top speed, pulling the cool air inside. I reported to everyone I’d been talking with that I made it through the storm just fine.

I surveyed the damage this morning, and there wasn’t any. The only loss I experienced was one of my magnets that was (unsuccessfully) holding the windshield cover down. It flew off somewhere and I haven’t found it. Everything inside the trailer was fine. My Starlink antenna on its magnetic roof mount hadn’t budged a bit. We’re all good.

It was when I made my morning coffee that I discovered a new problem…

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