Where is it likely to be raining closest to Southern California?
July 18, 2007 11:21 PM   Subscribe

Where is the closest place to Southern California that it's likely to be raining or have some good thunderstorms? I'm willing to drive several hours. This rain needs to happen around the middle/end of August.

My girlfriend is from Seattle, and loves the rain, in any form, as long as it comes from the sky. We're both students in Southern California (70 miles east of LA), and her birthday is coming up in the middle of August. Lately, in the middle of the no-rain SoCal Summer of Hot Death, she's become sad and grumpy that it doesn't rain here.

I would love nothing more than to know where it might be raining so that I could drive her there as a surprise for her birthday and fulfill her desires for precipitation.

So, where can I drive her to (within reason) that would give me the highest chance of experiencing some level of rain and/or thunderstorms?
posted by cheeken to Travel & Transportation around South Carolina (15 answers total)
Unfortunately, the answer to your question is "No where."

There isn't anywhere in southern California which has a significant chance of rain at the end of August. In fact, I don't think there's anywhere in the entire southwest US which gets rain at the end of August. We don't even get rain here in Oregon then.
posted by Steven C. Den Beste at 11:43 PM on July 18, 2007

Response by poster: I heard that there's a "monsoon season" in Arizona around now...any truth to this claim that anyone knows of?
posted by cheeken at 11:47 PM on July 18, 2007

Here are details on the (very real) Arizona monsoon. You might get lucky in places like the Imperial/Coachella Valleys, too, but Arizona's your best bet.
posted by mdonley at 11:53 PM on July 18, 2007

Google is your friend.
posted by doctor_negative at 11:56 PM on July 18, 2007

Response by poster: Yes, my relationship with Google is well noted, thank you.

I'm largely asking if anyone knows of any secret valleys and crevices in any direction that might be closer than the four hours to Phoenix.

And if anyone from AZ can give a feel as to what it's been like this summer.
posted by cheeken at 12:01 AM on July 19, 2007

This US climate atlas has a clunky interface, but with some poking around, it will tell you the facts. Those facts, though, won't delight you, in that what you're looking for doesn't appear to exist. Still, it will let you examine August rainfall for any area, in mean total precipitation, mean number of days with measurable precipitation, or other measures. You'll have to work with the menus on the front page, and then the right panel of options (where you'll turn off Annual and on August) and left panel of tools (where you'll zoom and pan).
posted by daisyace at 4:49 AM on July 19, 2007

I think the real answer is to take a weekend holiday via plane to somewhere with a much higher chance of precipitation. Like Portland, Oregon.
posted by canine epigram at 5:18 AM on July 19, 2007

Las Vegas (NV) has a late august/early september monsoon season with some of the best thunder and lighting I have ever seen. (I lived there for 7 years) link to a photo gallery It varies from year to year. If you go to Vegas watch out in the low lying areas as it can flash-flood. Watch the weather reports.
posted by digital-dragonfly at 5:47 AM on July 19, 2007

I love Arizona's monsoons, but I wouldn't take my chances and drive four hours to Phoenix if that's the only thing you're coming for. And I think the odds of seeing rain are probably greater in Flagstaff than Phoenix, but that adds more driving time to your trip.
posted by curie at 6:09 AM on July 19, 2007

I've been caught in afternoon thunderstorms in August in Big Bear. We were lunching at the top of the ski lift, and the storm had knocked out the electricity. We got to ride back down in a 4x4 pickup.

The Eastern Sierras can be thunderstormy in August, as well.
posted by notyou at 7:31 AM on July 19, 2007

Response by poster: Thanks to everyone who's given ideas so far. Driving to Phoenix is doable, but I'm concerned that if it doesn't rain, it'll be so hot that we both melt. Physically. Think Raiders of the Lost Ark.

I'll let everyone know what eventually happens, and thanks again.
posted by cheeken at 10:06 AM on July 19, 2007

It's hurricane season in the caribbean and coastal central america in august; it's merely 'rainy season' inland in central america. You can probably get pretty cheap flights, all things considered.
posted by Kololo at 10:36 AM on July 19, 2007

You might try Idyllwild, Big Bear, or further north, Mammoth. Those mountains tend to catch whatever moisture comes through.
FWIW, my contacts in those places tell me that it's been very dry, so if you do happen to catch a thunderstorm, any strikes might start fires.

More seriously, go north. Go north as far as you feasibly manage. Go to Big Sur and beyond. Frontier's been running some deals, so fly to Denver. Some of the best thunderstorms I've ever seen were in the Sawtooth Mountains in Idaho.
posted by lilithim at 11:00 AM on July 19, 2007

You don't have to go all the way to Arizona--the deserts east of San Diego, and possibly LA get the same monsoon effects that AZ does. In August, thunderheads start rising up to the east of the local mountains every day around noon. Anza Borrego Desert State Park might be a good bet, but yes, your face will melt. You may want to just go to the Laguna mountains, drive down S-1 and watch the storms from above.
posted by LionIndex at 11:08 AM on July 19, 2007

Phoenix gets rain so rarely that it's an event every time, EVEN during the monsoon season. It rained on Monday, for the first time in months, but only for about fifteen minutes, and not very hard. We do get great thunderstorms in late summer but your chances of catching one are virtually nil, and even in the right season rain is hard to predict. It was overcast all day and all we're getting out of it tonight is heavy wind and dust storms.

If you are going to seek out a monsoon storm, stay away from large cities where the heat-island effect will produce high-pressure zones that discourage rain. Good luck!
posted by Chris4d at 10:24 PM on July 19, 2007

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