Seeking holiday sunshine
Most Christmases my former sister-in-law Lesley hosts a gathering at her Tucson vacation home.
Jean and I always try to attend, though December is one month when Arizona weather sometimes raises its head. Factor in short winter days, a dearth of Tucson hotel rooms during “snowbird” season, and the alternative 8-hour round-trip drive, and sometimes it’s not feasible to go. Weather permitting, however, it makes a great aerial daytrip. The 90-minute flight allows us to arrive midmorning, enjoy family company, and return home around sunset.
This year we were particularly eager to go because all my Chicago nieces and nephews would be coming, several with spouses and girlfriends and two in their first year of college. It would be a rare treat to see them.
We also faced an unrelated mission the day after Christmas, when following a debilitating fall, Jean’s mother was to be released from a Phoenix hospital. After returning from Tucson Christmas night, I was to drop Jean at Glendale Airport the next morning to assist her mom’s transition home.
On Christmas Eve we learned that a Central Rockies winter storm system was to brush northern Arizona on Christmas Day. Despite a chance of snow flurries, I wasn’t concerned. Stationary high pressure generally deflects such storms north, accounting for Arizona’s typically benign winter weather. Ceilings usually remain high in these cases, and just south of Flagstaff the terrain drops into normally clear warm-weather country. Sure enough, all stations from Sedona to Tucson forecast blue skies.
We awoke Christmas morning, however, to a lower than expected overcast shrouding northern Arizona, raising concerns of mountain obscuration by ice-filled clouds. Accumulating snow was now forecast for Flagstaff, with precipitation to spread southward throughout the state…
**READ THIS MONTH’S ENTIRE COLUMN, “TUCSON FOR CHRISTMAS.”**
Photo: Our first glimpse of holiday sun illuminates Theodore Roosevelt Lake, viewed over Arizona’s Mazatzal Mountains.
(This column first appeared in AOPA Flight Training magazine.)
©2015 Gregory N.Brown