Neto's Tucson: I'm not feeling the soggy love for this summer's 'monsoon'

2013-08-11T00:00:00Z 2013-08-12T12:02:18Z Neto's Tucson: I'm not feeling the soggy love for this summer's 'monsoon'Ernesto Portillo Jr. Arizona Daily Star Arizona Daily Star
August 11, 2013 12:00 am  • 

I'm feelin' blue. While the corpulent white clouds form and collect nearly every afternoon, this summer's rains haven't given us much to cheer about. Even the little rain that has managed to make its way into our water-starved valley has left me unimpressed.

The less-than-satisfactory monsoon season, so far, has left me wanting, disappointed.

It's the rains, not the heat, that define our summers in the Old Pueblo. (Can I still use the moniker?) A few Tucsonans might grumble about the heat but true Tucsonenses shush away the late May-June-July heat to welcome the July-August-September chubascos.

So far, to our communal frustration, there has been little glee.

"I feel the same way," said Michael Crimmins, an associate professor of soil, water and environmental science at the University of Arizona.

The lack of rain has affected our social interaction. If we have been grumpy, blame it on the paucity of rain.

Our official rainfall total (at Tucson International Airport) this monsoon is 2.83 inches through Friday compared with the average of 3.15.

During the rainy season a lot of folks spend time talking about the rain and asking each other "how much did you get?" Crimmins said.

This season it's been gloom. The thermometer is high and so is the tension.

Crimmins likened my despondency to what people in snow country go through when the sun disappears for months. It's our seasonal affective disorder.

"It's gaunt faces and dragging feet across campus," he said.

While the annual seasonal rains have drenched parts of Arizona, including Mount Lemmon, Tucson hasn't received its share.

"I'm feeling envious of people in Southeast Arizona," said Gary Woodard, manager of the UA's RainLog program and senior water consultant, Montgomery & Associates.

In the upper San Pedro River area, and from Bisbee to Douglas, the monsoons have drenched the region - with almost three times the average monsoon rainfall.

"The San Pedro River is flowing, and the riparian area is as lush as it can be," said Woodard, who tracks rainfall.

Here in town it's raining just enough so that the dogs are tracking in mud but not enough to water the plants, Woodard added.

Which only adds to my summer of discontent.

Growing up in Tucson the summer rains were, well, part of growing up. If enough rain fell we would hear the night crying of the frogs and the rush of the churning water in the arroyos. Verdolagas, sometimes called Mexican watercress, sprouted along water channels and were harvested for a nightly meal.

When I left Tucson for a wetter clime in Massachusetts and later cooler San Diego, I terribly missed Tucson's summer spectacles of pounding rain, sonorous thunder and rapturous clapping of lightning.

When I returned home I celebrated the annual return of the monsoons. I would stand outside and let the rains douse me, and when the celestial fireworks would come, I'd duck under the porch to ooh and aah.

This summer? Not so much.

I'm not much into a celebratory mood. But if I want to feel better about the summer rains, I should head to Sonora, said Jesús García, an education specialist with the Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum.

"Sonora is so green, you cannot imagine," García said. "It's a carpet of green."

Here, along the Santa Cruz River, we'll have to wait a bit longer.

While the leaves have sprung on Tucson's ocotillos and summer squash is being harvested, a rip-roarin' rain has yet to snap me out of my doldrums.

I was urged to be patient. We still have the rest of August and much of September for more rain.

However, it's getting late and we're cutting it close, said Crimmins.

We begin July with high expectations and end September with disappointment, Crimmins said.

"We'll take whatever we can get."

Ernesto "Neto" Portillo Jr. is editor of La Estrella de Tucsón. He can be reached at (520) 573-4187 or at netopjr@azstarnet.com

Copyright 2014 Arizona Daily Star. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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