The afternoon thunderstorms I'm familiar with happen in the high desert -- New Mexico, parts of East Texas, Maybe Western Arizona. Mostly New Mexico, though. We really don't get much rain out there, and the relative humidity rarely breaks 10%, and most of the time it's closer to 5. People not from around here complain about the dryness, the chapped lips, the flaky skin, the hard water. . . they don't like freezing when they get out of the shower because the parched, powdery air lets the water evaporate so fast.

There just ain't a lot of water out there. Mostly I'm glad to have it around at all. But rain, damn, that water from the sky is a freaking novelty.

You know that saying, When it rains, it pours? They were talking about the high desert afternoon thundershower. You wake up to a clear blue sky. It starts to warm up. By 2 in the afternoon, it's hot. Like pushing-100 degrees hot. But there are big white clouds sloshing over the Sandia Mountains.

Half an hour later they're not white, they're grey. Then there's the distant thunder -- New Mexico has a lot of fatalities from lightning. Pretty soon it won't be so distant. So the big grey-black clouds come stomping over the desert, and it's like somebody turned on a firehose. Drip-drip-drip-BANG! And it's pouring. Not a drizzle. Not a steady rain. Huge drops hurtling violently out of the sky. Gutters are filled to the sidewalk within minutes. The Arroyos flood 3 feet deep with rushing water. We get half an inch of rain in 10 minutes. In spite of this intensity, the storm is so localized that it can be raining heavily across the street and barely sprinkling where you stand. Odds are the storm is moving, though, so you won't stay dry for long.

And, because it's in the afternoon, the sun is low in the western sky -- with the storm coming from the east, all of this happens and the sun is still shining.

There will be a beautiful, full, city-spanning rainbow in a few minutes, and tonight a brilliant red-orange sunset that would be called "exaggerated" if any artist dared to paint it.

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