Do you love when it rains? Or do you prefer bright sunshine? Whether you like it or not, rain is important. Without it, our plants and crops wouldn’t grow. Our water supplies would run low. Even if it ruins a perfect day for a picnic, we need rain from time to time.
Some people love when it rains. Have you ever been awakened on a cool Saturday morning by the pitter-patter of raindrops on your bedroom window? On those days, there’s no better feeling than rolling over, pulling up the covers and drifting back to sleep to the soothing sounds of the rain.
Of course, too much rain can be a very bad thing. The same plants and crops that need rain to live can also be damaged by too much rain. Likewise, too much rain can cause flooding that can hurt people and property.
Sometimes when it rains, the rain falls heavily for just a short time. This type of rain can cause flash flooding, because it comes down faster than the ground can absorb it. When this happens, the unabsorbed rain washes away in large sheets and streams wherever it is directed by gravity and the local landscape.
There are many different terms for this type of short, heavy rain. In many parts of the United States, you’ll hear people describe such a rain as a “gully washer.” In other areas, it might be called a downpour, a cloudburst, a turtle floater, a duck drowner or even a toad strangler!
These are all colorful phrases that help you picture in your mind the kind of rain that fell. For example, in the case of a “gully washer,” it helps to know what a gully is first.
A gully is a large ditch or small valley, often along a hillside, that’s created by running water eroding the soil. When it rains, gullies help move water along from higher elevations to lower elevations. As the water moves through a gully, it continues to take away soil, making the gully deeper and wider.
It would take a lot of rain coming down quickly to fill up or “wash” a gully, so “gully washer” paints a good picture in the mind of a particular type of rainstorm. In a similar way, you can imagine what kind of rain it would take to float a turtle, drown a duck or strangle a toad!