Monsoon Aftermath

September 30, 2021

What a phenomenal monsoon season it has been! As of September 1, 2021 Tucson has received 12.08 inches of rain – that’s more than six inches above our average monsoon rainfall! After last year’s “non-soon” and devastating Bighorn fire in the Santa Catalina Mountains, this wetter than average summer has felt like a breath of fresh air. But with life giving rain comes destruction. For Tohono Chul that destruction came in the form of microbursts. The first microburst hit the gardens at approximately 4:30 pm on Saturday, August 28th. Large hail combined with winds reportedly in excess of 60 mph wreaked havoc on the grounds. Fortunately, all of Tohono Chul’s structures remained intact. Head Groundskeeper, Chris Kibler arrived the following morning with a heavy heart as he surveyed the vast damage throughout the grounds. The storm took out several mature trees including a 70 foot Date palm in the Ethnobotanical Garden, a large Ironwood tree by the Children’s Ramada, a large Arizona Rosewood tree near the Grounds Office, and numerous full grown Palo Verde trees throughout the property. Our amazing Grounds crew quickly got to work clearing debris from the pathways and around buildings so that business as usual could resume.

Unfortunately, Mother Nature was not yet done with Tohono Chul – another heavy storm rolled through the property at 6:00 pm on Sunday, August 29th and roughly doubled the amount of damage from the previous day. Between the two storms, over 60 trees and large plants were completely uprooted or severely damaged and six saguaros toppled (three of which were beyond salvaging). Not to mention the countless broken limbs and debris strewn throughout the grounds.

Post storm cleanup proved to be no small feat! Again, our incredible Grounds crew got to it – removing fallen trees that impeded pathways and parking along with the help of Rob Stevens and his team at Canopy Tree Services. One of the biggest challenges involved removing the top of the Date palm from the Texas Olive tree in the Spanish Colonial Courtyard. Not a sight you see every day! Over seven roll off dumpsters were filled with storm debris and the work is not done yet – four more dumpsters will likely be filled when the cleanup is complete. We want to extend a HUGE thank you to the Grounds crew for their efforts! Anyone who visited after the storms can attest to the large scale destruction seen throughout the gardens. Volunteers and Docents were also quick to lend a hand with the cleanup. Thank you to everyone who pitched in! You worked tirelessly to return Tohono Chul to the beautiful state that we all know and love. A tree nursery based in Phoenix has generously offered to donate several tress to replace some of those lost during the storms. Look for these new additions to the gardens sometime in the spring of 2022. While we are deeply saddened by the destruction and loss of so many trees, cacti, and vegetation, the rains in turn rewarded us with the gift of an influx of butterflies throughout the gardens. Look for the delicate insects fluttering by on your next visit!      

Red dots on the map indicate sites of destruction.