White Rim Storm
The worst short storm I have ever been in occurred in 1997 when I was on the White rim trail in Canyon Lands National Park near Moab Utah. The white rim trail is an easy 4X4 trail that follows the top edge of a canyon.
It was late afternoon and dark clouds were drifting in from over the mountains. I noticed several cars going by heading out of the park but didn't think much about it at the time other than thinking it seemed to be a lot of traffic for a 4X4 trail. I was focused instead on the magnificent scenery all around me. Soon after getting back into the Land Rover from taking a picture of the canyon rim I noticed that the trail up ahead was no longer visible.
Suddenly the Land Rover was rocked by a violent dust storm. Instantly the inside of my freshly resealed car was very thick with flying dust. I quickly shut my engine off to keep the dust from ruining it. The Land Rover was facing directly into a dust storm that was shaking her quite a bit. Visibility dropped to zero. I was having bad thoughts about the sealing ability of my new genuine Land Rover door seals and about the survivability of a month and a half old paint job in a sand blaster.
About five or six minutes into this, the dust was replaced by a flood of water then sleet being pushed horizontally by a heavy wind. The wipers had no visible clearing effect. After about 20 minutes of this, the storm quieted into what I normally think of as a major lightning and rain storm with high winds. I was able to see again... kinda.
So I fired up the engine and crept along the trail looking for a sheltered space to call it a night. During the search for a sheltered spot I saw instant rivers appear throwing unbelievable volumes of water down the sides of the bluffs, across the shelf I was on then over the rim of the canyon. Some of those instant rivers were starting to flow across the trail. About 15 minutes into the search I found short upwind bluff along the trail that I could tuck up against.
If I had a new Defender this would have made the kind of TV infomercial that Rover would have killed to get. Except no visible light camera could have penetrated the weather.
I put on my rain gear which I pack up front just in case then went out into the deluge to remove the long CB antenna and unlatch the exterior roof latches. With the lightning providing a near constant light show all around me I did not want the long antenna acting like a lightning rod. Having made myself as safe as I could, I went into the back of the Land Rover and raised the Dormobile top.
Once inside with the top erected, a tape in the stereo, and both fluorescent ceiling lamps lit, I changed into something dry and warm then fixed myself a nice dinner of salad, steamed broccoli and broiled flank steak as the car continued to rock violently from the storm. Afterwards I sat in the rear jump seat with a pint of ale and a good book trying to ignore near constant lightning, heavy rain and a wind that was exercising my new shocks. I hate to think what the wind would be like if I hadn't tucked the Land Rover up near the short upwind bluff .
Of course during the night as I was trying to sleep with frequent lightning flashing, the car rocking from the wind and the noise of heavy rain and thunder, my mind started thinking of the canyon rim being only feet away and the wind knocking the car over on her side and down the canyon to the floor way, way down below (I don't do drop offs well).
Morning dawned without a cloud in the sky, my Land Rover was still where I parked her about 50 feet away from the rim, and the rivers of run off water were down to small streams. During the night, my imagination convinced me that the canyon rim was only 5 feet or so away.
The duration of the storm was much less that the week or two of constant rain that I'm used to, but I was very, very impressed with its violence.
I never got a picture of the camp site where I weathered this storm. But I have a picture of different camp site taken the morning after a rain. This is a camp site in Kane Creek Canyon located outside of Moab, Utah, not far from the white rim trail. When wet the red sand stone bluffs become a deeper red.
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