Being brought up in the desert southwest, we watched in awe as the news broadcasted the natural disasters that wrecked havoc in other parts of the nation. In Tucson Arizona we had two seasons, 4 months of summer and the other 8 months of spring like weather. On occasion, we had temperatures that got as low as 40 degrees for maybe 2 days then it would go back up into the 70s. I remember the last Christmas we spent there before moving to Missouri, I got a bicycle and a swimsuit. I promptly put on the suit and rode around the block on my bike!
I remember August 27, 1964, like it was yesterday. It was a Thursday, and the rain clouds were gathering to the south. We lived outside the city limits, about 2 blocks east of Mission Road. It was named that because that road took you to the San Xavier Mission about 2 miles south. It was built by Padre Eusebio Kino in 1692, and it was on the Tohono O’odham Indian Reservation. Not only was the Church there but a vibrant community and a convent. Walking to school that morning the wind was unusually strong and I found myself leaning into it. It was a relief when I finally got inside.
It wasn’t until I got home that day that I heard the news. For the first time on record an F2 tornado touched down at the Mission. It was a quick-hitting one, it moved erratically north, then west, and then north again. It destroyed a 3 ½ mile path, cutting through the Indian community, demolishing 11 homes and the convent. 2 people were killed and the damage to the village was devastating. The convent was situated just across a narrow dirt road, directly in front of San Xavier Church. Not one brick was disturbed on the Mission, and all of the nuns had been at prayer in the Prayer room. The footage on the news that evening and the photos in the newspaper the next day were scary to a nine-year-old child.
In December that year I recall my Dad telling us about having snow for Christmas when he was growing up. He told us stories about sledding, snowball fights, and the ground being covered white. We were also told about how cold it was and how they had to wear heavy coats and snow boots. He had us stick our heads in the freeze so we could see how it felt! That night I started praying for snow, it sounded so magical. I can’t say I prayed for it every night, but it was pretty often. I can’t tell you how disappointed I was when I woke up on Christmas morning and there was no snow. Imagine my surprise when a few days later when I woke up to the yard being white! There was snow on the chain link fence, the dirt road in front of our home and our truck. I was so excited I ran outside in my pajamas barefoot. I then ran back inside just as fast. It was too cold and I didn’t have any clothes warm enough to make it bearable. All the snow had melted by early afternoon and muddy everywhere. It was then that I decided that I didn’t like snow! Since that day, I believe it has only snowed in town maybe 5 times.
Last but certainly not least, there is a river named the Santa Cruz that ran from north to south about a mile from where we lived. It was considered a dry bed river since water rarely actually flowed in it. This was a weird river, first the water ran from south to north and it was under the riverbed. Only when we had a lot of rain did you see any water in it. In 1967, there was a heavy storm that accumulated south of the border in Mexico and made its way 60 miles north to Tucson. It left a trail of flooding along the way. The excess water filled the river to overflowing as it rushed north through the city. That day my Dad was late getting home from work. I was really worried about him and I made a dash out to the truck when he pulled in the driveway. He told me to get my mother and sister and get in the vehicle. We all piled in and off we went. He made a left onto Ajo Road heading east towards town. Just before we got to the bridge that spanned the river we pulled over to the side of the road. The street on both sides were lined with cars and there was a large crowd gathered on the edge of the river. We got out and made our way to the bridge, except it wasn’t there! It had been washed away from the fast moving water. While we stood there, we saw the last remaining section fall into the water. It was a sight to see! I guess natural disasters do happen in the desert!
I am a professional genealogist, writer, photographer, wife, mother, and grandma. I have two books available on Amazon.com: Your Family History: Doing It Right the First Time and Planning Your Genealogy Research Trip. You can also connect with me via Facebook or Twitter.