Hailstorm Rattles Pine

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The rest of Rim Country may be waiting for the onset of the monsoons, but an onslaught of hail and a rain deluge, which in some places briefly came down at a rate of 13 inches an hour, convinced some Pine and Strawberry residents the monsoons had arrived over the weekend.

The July 3 downpour officially delivered 1.14 inches in less than an hour, but the rate peaked briefly at more than 10 times that, according to measurements made at Wes Suhr's home weather station.

Marble-size hailstones beat down gardens, carpeted open areas and drove people indoors.

The downpour drenched anyone standing in the open -- and instantly filled normally dry gullies and streambeds. The floodwaters closed many roads briefly, leaving behind instant erosion.

The storm was so intense and localized, that it barely registered on the regional calculations.

Across the Rim Country, the lightning-charged storms delivered uneven rainfall throughout the long weekend, sparking 10 or 15 small fires every day in the national forests. The intermittent rain caused the crowds to ebb and flow at the Payson July 4 block party on Main Street and punished campers who didn't bring their tents.

Rainfall totals varied from more than an inch in many areas on the Rim, to half an inch or less in other places.

The National Weather Service gave up the old definition of calculating a monsoon by the moisture in the air over a certain period and this year declared June 15 as the start of the monsoon season regardless of actual rainfall.

The forecast for the next week calls for a 30- to 40-percent chance of thunderstorms every afternoon and evening -- and Forest Service fire managers say they expect the weather to meet anybody's definition of the monsoon season in the course of the next week.

The first flush of the monsoon season that so disconcerted residents of Pine and Strawberry over the weekend has put yearly rainfall totals just ahead of the long-term average. The 30-year average rainfall for this time of the year stands at 8.25, but so far this year Rim Country has collected 9.01 inches.

The healthy total after a decade of almost uninterrupted drought relies mostly on a wet winter, since spring rainfall came in below normal and June recorded just 0.13 of an inch, compared to the average of 0.35 of an inch.

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