The recent dramatic change in weather got me wondering: just how unusual was the weather that we saw on May 22 and May 23? The answer may surprise you.
Temperature-wise, the sudden cool down was not that extreme. A look at National Weather Service probabilities regarding freeze dates shows that there is a 50-percent chance of a 36-degree temperature on May 23 in Payson, and a 20-percent chance of a 32-degree temperature in Payson on May 24. So the very fact that the temperatures dipped down is not that unusual. It also fits with something that old-timers have told me -- it can freeze as late as early June. The NWS freeze chart states just that. There is a 10-percent chance of a 36-degree temperature up to June 7 and a 10-percent chance of a 32-degree temperature up until May 29. Keep in mind that's Payson's station too, which is at 4,913 feet in elevation, so the outlying areas definitely have a good chance of freezing. Payson's all-time low temperature in May is 22 degrees, which happened on May 6, 1975. If we want to get a little closer to the date of this storm, we can look to the all-time low temperature for June, which is 31 degrees, set on June 7, 1993.
The precipitation is a little bit more unusual, though not unheard of, even in recent years. In May 2001, Payson received 1.48 inches for the month, including 1.13 inches on May 19. The other six years? The most rain was .15 inches, which came on May 29, 2005. Two of the other six years saw just trace amounts of rain, while another two years there was no recorded precipitation. The highest daily total in May was 1.15 inches recorded on May 30, 1967. So while Payson had a good rain out of this recent system, 1.08 inches, it still fell short of the record.
Now let's look at June. Payson's all-time June high is 106, which was reached most recently on June 26, 1990. Many throughout Arizona remember that date for various reasons. Phoenix had its all-time high of 122 on that day, and it was the same day that six firefighters perished fighting the Dude Fire near Bonita Creek. The 100-degree temperature is actually abnormally high for June in Payson, but June 1990 wasn't like any other in Payson. Payson had 11 100-plus degree days to close out the month of June that year. How abnormal was that? In the past six years, Payson has had zero 100-degree days in June, and just six in the past 10 years. So, theoretically, we should be looking good going forward. Then again, Payson did have a half-inch of rain on May 29, 1990 and a low of 34 degrees on May 20, 1990, before conditions changed for the worse the following month. The average daily high for June? 90 degrees.
On the cooler side of June, the lowest daily reading was 31 on June 7, 1993. The average low is 49.6 degrees. We often tell people how much it cools down at night, and that average proves it. That's a 40-degree difference between average high and average low. It's no wonder that people flock here in the summer. Next, let's look to moisture.
The average amount of rainfall for Payson in June is .37 inches. The highest amount of rain in one day may shock you. Payson received 2.15 inches on June 13, 1955. The highest June monthly total is 2.88 inches, which came in June of 1972. It just goes to show that relatively unpredictable weather in Rim Country is not a new phenomenon.
Now, let's go back a little over 100 years and take a look at some weather related mentions about this area from Globe's Arizona Silver Belt newspaper, to get a better idea of how people thought about the weather then.
"Harry Nash, who arrived on Tuesday from Payson, reports northern Gila county prosperous. The varied mineral resources of Tonto basin are attracting much attention, and prospecting and development are being actively carried on. The cattle interest is also enjoying a prosperous season, the calf crop being unusually large. The continued drought is the only discouraging feature of the situation and unless there is a generous rainfall the loss of stock will be considerable." -- May 31, 1900
An extended period of little or no rain was particularly bad in those days, as ranchers could lose their livelihood by losing too much stock.
"The weather stands at from 88 to 90 these days."-- June 28, 1900
Does that fit with the average temperature for June or what?
"Water is getting low in the springs and cattlemen have concluded to clean them out for the benefit of stock." -- June 28, 1900
Late June can definitely get pretty dry with yearround streams reaching low points. Obviously, this isn't a new phenomenon, although the consequences of such low levels have changed somewhat.
Update on my book
I'm proud to say that my book, Zane Grey's Forgotten Ranch: Tales from the Boles Homestead is back from the printer and available for purchase. The cover is a painting by a good friend of mine, C.M. Scott. If you've been around Christopher Creek or Tonto Village through the years you probably know him better as "Scotty." It's an incredible piece of artwork depicting the heart of the Boles Homestead as it was when Zane Grey owned it. Prints and giclees are also available of this painting as well as others that Scotty has done.
We're still working on a promotional schedule at this point, but look for a book signing later in June, as well as one on the Fourth of July weekend. If you'd like a copy, you can look for it at various outlets in Rim Country. If you'd like a signed copy, try to coordinate with me and I'll sell you one personally. The best way to reach me is via email at email@example.com. You can also order online at www.CowboyArtMart.com.
This book is all about the Boles Homestead, which lies approximately three miles west of Tonto Creek. Zane Grey owned 120 acres of this homestead from 1923 to 1930, during which time Edd Haught and Verdie Haught helped run the place for him. The homesteader, Sampson Elam Boles, has ties to numerous Rim Country families, including the Garrels family and the Haughts. Prior to Boles owning this property, it was owned by Jim Roberts, a noted participant in the Pleasant Valley War.
There is a mesa in the area named for Roberts. Currently, the subdivisions of Mead Ranch, Collins Ranch, and Zane Grey Meadows reside on the Boles Homestead. Mead Ranch is the only part of the homestead that Grey did not own, though he undoubtedly traversed it quite a bit.