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!

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  1. I did not know the video would be a flood. When I got on to wonderopolis the picture looked like it was a COD black opps 2 gameplay. I wondered a lot on that picture of the wonder of the day.

    I think tomorrow’s wonder would be a little something like this: what do apples do?

    • What a great connection, Pedro! Today’s Wonder video did resemble something you might see on a video game! We are glad to hear that you’re WONDERing about today’s rainy Wonder… keep up the great work! Thanks for sharing your SUPER guess for tomorrow, too! :)

  2. Mrs. D.’s class thinks tomorrows wonder of the day will be about:
    -a golden apple
    -shiny apples

    Let’s see who is right!!

    • WOOHOO, we’re so happy to see all these MARVELOUS Wonder guesses from Mrs. D’s Wonder Friends! We can’t wait to find out what the next Wonder will be! YIPPEE! :)

  3. Happy Monday, Wonderopolis! It is so funny that today’s wonder is about rain because it is RAINING in East Bend today! We learned a lot about what makes rain a good thing and what makes rain a bad a thing. We also now know proper terminology for rainy weather! See ya tomorrow! :-)

    • Good morning, Wonder Friends in Miss Hobson’s Class! What a coincidence– it’s raining here at Wonderopolis today! We hope you stay warm and dry, and we’re glad you’re WONDERing about rain with us today. See you soon, Wonder Friends! Have a marvelous Monday! :)

  4. Thoughts: The video really showed us how fast water can move. We’re a little concerned about people who drive through that amount of rushing water. We also noticed that water can be very powerful. We’re curious if there are any tires that can move through that amount of water.

    Connection: This reminded one of our students (Joaquin) who had a relative who knew someone that tried to go through this amount of water uphill and the water pushed the car back down the hill. Another student (Shalize) remembered a time after a rain storm when she watched running water rush into the sewer drains.

    Prediction: Who came up with the phrase an apple a day keeps the doctor away? Is Johnny Appleseed real? Who invented apples? What is the best use for an apple (product)? Have you ever had a caramel apple? What is in an apple that keeps the doctor away?

    • WOOHOO, our Wonder Friends from Mrs. Hess’ Class are here this morning! We are excited to share our Wonder with you today! Thanks for telling us what you learned and how you felt about this soggy Wonder. We have our umbrellas ready to go here at Wonderopolis!

      Thanks for sharing your connections to today’s Wonder, too. We are so happy to hear that you have been talking about storms and safety, too. You are all doing a super job of WONDERing together! Teamwork is so much fun with great Wonder Friends like you!

      We are looking forward to WONDERing with you all tomorrow! :)

    • How awesome, Mad D! We’re glad to hear that you have been WONDERing enough to summarize the Wonders of the Day! Nice work! We’re so happy you’re here– thanks for telling us about your project! :)

  5. I think that tomorrow’s Wonder will be about:

    ~Healthy eating habits
    ~Why are apples healthy?
    ~Snow White
    ~Vitamins in fruit

  6. We had a wonderful time learning about gully washers. We learned what gully washers are, and that they have lots of names.
    We think that tomorrow’s will be about Johnny Appleseed, doctors, or sayings.

    • We’re so glad to hear it, Mrs. Karr’s Class! Thanks for joining us today to Wonder about rainy days! We can’t wait to find out what tomorrow’s Wonder will be… and we think you’re on the right track! :)

  7. We were surprised that the flooding was washing the car.

    This is our first day on Wonderopolis! We are excited to “wonder” with the world.

    We could visualize “ducks drowning” and “turtles floating.”

    • Hey there, Super Sleuths! WELCOME to Wonderopolis– we’re so happy you’re here today! What a great way to start a week… with new Wonder Friends! HOORAY!

      We look forward to WONDERing with you in the future, and thanks for sharing what you learned from today’s Wonder. We hope you stayed dry! See you soon! :)

    • You’re right, Jusin! Gully washer sounds like a character from a funny book! We’re glad today’s Wonder made you smile, Jusin! :)

    • Thanks so much, Wonder Friend Hunter! We are glad you don’t mind the rain AND you learned something new with us! HOORAY for great Wonder Friends like you! :)

  8. Wow I think I have seen a gully washer when I was on the highway once and it was lucky that it was there because it was a very heavy downpour.
    I think tomorrow’s wonder will be about doctors.

    • Hey there, Moira, we’re glad you’re familiar with our Wonder today! Thanks for telling us about your connection to our rainy Wonder! Thanks for stopping by to say hello, and for sharing your guess, too! :)

    • Hey there, Wonder Friend Ali! We are so glad you’re WONDERing with us today! You have a great guess for tomorrow’s Wonder and we’re so happy you enjoyed our video, too! Thanks for stopping by today! :)

    • You’ve got it right, Chayce! We learned that a gully washer is a term used to describe a whole lot of rain over a certain period of time! Thanks for sharing your guess with us– we hope to see you tomorrow! :)

    • You’ve got that right, Lils! We’re so happy you learned about a gully washer with us today. Thanks for sharing your WONDERful comment! :)

    • There sure is a lot of rain in today’s Wonder video; it’s a good thing those cars made it! We agree with you, Wonder Friend Dakota! We hope you’re having a super day… and staying dry after today’s Wonder! :)

  9. That video was really interesting! I really want to learn more about gully washers! I have no idea what tomorrow’s wonder will be.

    • Thanks for sharing your comment with us, Daphne! It’s so awesome that you learned something new from today’s rainy Wonder! Perhaps you recall a time when a downpour, or gully washer, took place in your town?

      We look forward to WONDERing with you tomorrow! See you then! :)

    • It can be, Wonder Friend Brad! A gully washer describes a whole lot of rain in a certain period of time– sometimes there is a flood, and sometimes there is a great deal of rain in a short amount of time. Traffic is usually affected, and it’s tough to travel and see clearly during this time! :)

    • Thanks for sharing your SUPER guesses, Abigail! We’re so glad you’ve been WONDERing with us today– we hope to see you soon! :)

    • Hey there, Wonder Friend Owen! Thanks for sharing your comment today– it sounds like you might have experienced a flash flood yourself! We sure are glad you’re okay– thanks for WONDERing wit us today! Sometimes these storms can be scary, which is why it’s important to be safe when traveling! :)

    • Nice work, Wonder Friend Ale! We learned that there can be a lot that happens during a gully washer, including damage to cars. Thanks for summarizing what can happen during these storms! :)

  10. An apple a day won’t keep tomorrow’s Wonder of the day away!

    I wonder if tomorrow’s Wonder is going to have some thing to do with eating an apple every day?

  11. These are some very unusual sayings. The only one I have heard of is downpour. I think tomorrow’s wonder will be about either animals or vehicles. THANKS!!! 😉

    • THanks for sharing your very own Wonder guesses, Opinion Girl13! We are glad you learned about some new phrases that describe a downpour! Happy WONDERing to you! :)

  12. Love this article it’s taught me a lot! But cool and weird names for rain but hey who am I to judge? Well loved the article can’t wait for the next one!

    • Thanks for sharing your super comment, Animal Lover20! We are glad you learned something new from today’s rainy Wonder! We hope to see you soon! :)

  13. Wow! I never knew that a gully washer was a downpour! That’s amazing how many different names that people call it! Do you know where the words “gully washer” were originated from?

    I think tomorrow’s Wonder of the Day will be about:

    ~The effects of the apple in the human body
    ~Snow White

    • We’re glad you’re WONDERing about the origin of today’s Wonder phrase, Izzy! WOHOO! We bet you can do some research of your own about the term gully washer! Keep up the great work, and thanks for sharing your super guesses with us! :)

  14. Thanks for an amazing wonder!! We just finished learning about the weather!! We have 2 questions….

    1. Can a Gully Washer become a stream??

    2. Can a Gully Washer move a car or truck??


    We think tomorrow’s Wonder will be about Johnny Appleseed!!!

    • Hi there, Wonder Friends in Mrs. Piccioni’s Second Grade Class! Thanks for WONDERing with us today! We’re glad to hear this Wonder connects to your recent lessons– hooray!

      Water is very powerful– sometimes an extreme downpour can create a stream through a town. If the force of water is great enough, water can even move cars or trucks. However, we usually see that happen in extreme situations, like hurricanes and tsunamis. Thanks for sharing your comment today! :)

  15. The thing that happened in the video is that people in there cars are driving on water some are going slow and some are going speeding across the water. What I see is that the water is going to the bars side to side. One of the cars was going to turn but really slow. One thing is that the people point to the camera to the cars that are coming up the street. It shows that this one boy is coming from the other side of the street and I guess he was going to his friend.

    • Hi there, Wonder Friend Andre! Thanks for sharing your comment with us today– you did a super job of summarizing the Wonder video! Nice work! We’re glad you’ve been WONDERing about gully washers, too! We sure learned a lot from you! :)

  16. I think that it is very dangerous that people are driving in this weather. I wonder if people have got hurt doing this. I also think it is very neat how they can drive when there is a big gully next to them.

    • Hey there, Wonder Friend Katelyn! Thanks for sharing your comment today– we are glad you mentioned safety! It’s important to stay safe during storms like these. We do not recommend traveling in storms like these– and we hope you agree! :)

  17. I think this gully washer is pretty bad because when it happens then how are people supposed to walk by? If I was there I would probly be really scared. Especially if I had to drive through it by myself! I have one question. How long does it take for the gully washer to dry up and be a normal amount of water and what do people do while waiting for it to pass or end? Other than that it seems pretty cool.

    • Hey there, Wonder Friend Emily! We’re so glad you’ve been WONDERing with us today! Gully washers are certainly full of rain and sometimes wind, so we wouldn’t want to be outside or traveling in a car either! It’s important to stay safe while trying to get to your destination– take your time while driving or watch out for large puddles if you’re on foot! Thanks for sharing your comment, Emily!

  18. That is gully washer it look so cool to see one. I didn’t know a car could still drive in the gully washer. I think next wonderopolis is effect about apple.

    • We’re glad you enjoyed today’s rainy Wonder, Jason! It’s pretty impressive that the car could still safely drive in all that rain! We can’t wait for tomorrow’s shiny Wonder! :)

  19. I think it is really wierd that a lot of water can build up and people can still get around. When I watched that video it made me think of TV when someone is standing near a puddle and a car comes around and they get covered in water. That truck that came by is like a smow plow but for water.

    • Thanks for sharing your comment, Carla! We like your style– gully washer does sound like a character from a book! Thanks for WONDERing today! :)

    • That’s a great question, Erick! Water can be very powerful! We learned that when the water is not absorbed quickly by the ground, it has no where else to go– so it spreads around! When there is a lot of rain, this becomes an issue for travelers on the road. Thanks for helping us Wonder today! :)

    • Hey there, Wonder Friend Crystal! We learned that some gully washers become floods if there is a lot of water with no where to go. We love your question– thanks for sharing it with us! :)

    • We’re so happy to read your awesome and kind comment, Ali! Thanks for sharing your thoughts with us– we are so happy to Wonder with you! :)

  20. That is kind of scary how all those cars drive on the water. Also it is scary because it goes on the concrete and people are standing there. But it is also cool how the water is kind of high.

    • We’re glad all the cars were safely traveling during this gully washer, Kayla H! We agree– it’s a bit scary to imagine all that water on the road. Safety is important, especially during a gully washer or flood. Thanks for sharing your comment! :)

  21. Just by looking at the video I thought it was a flood. The cars where sounding like a not working tv. To me it was creepy. Thankfully it doesn’t rain much where I live.

    • Hey there, Wonder Friend KK, we’re glad you have been WONDERing about heavy rains with us today. We understand that gully washers can be scary, but it is interesting to learn about the science behind rain. Thanks for sharing your comment with us today! :)

  22. A gully washer is a long term of rain. A gully washer can make a flood on any type of landscape. It can actually move something over 1000 pounds that is hard to move but- a gully washer can move it.

    • Thank you for sharing what you learned from today’s Wonder, Daniel! We’re so happy you summarized this information for us! Nice work! We hope to Wonder with you soon! :)

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Have you ever wondered…

  • What is a gully washer?
  • How are gullies formed?
  • What unique weather phrases do you use in your part of the world?

Wonder Gallery

862862_1862_2Vimeo Video

Try It Out

Has your area had a good gully washer lately? Put on your rubber boots, grab a friend or family member and check out one or more of the following activities:

  • Can you make your own gully washer? You can’t make it rain on command, but you can create a miniature gully washer in the backyard. All you’ll need is some dirt and a water hose. Heap up a pile of dirt and then place the running hose along its edge. Do you see how the running water erodes the dirt and washes it away? If you direct the flow of the water carefully, you can create your own gully on the side of your dirt mound. The next time it rains, keep an eye out for areas where water has eroded the land!
  • Don’t you just love colorful language that paints vivid images in your mind? Whether it’s a gully washer, a turtle floater, a toad strangler or a duck drowner, you can certainly imagine what a powerful downpour must have occurred. Do you know any other colorful sayings to describe a hard rainfall in your area? If not, maybe you could make up one of your own. Just imagine the last time it rained really, really hard in your area. What types of things did you see take place as a result of the rain? How did the rain affect things in your area? Maybe thinking about these things will help you come up with a new phrase of your own! What other weather-related sayings are popular in your area? Do you live in an area that gets really hot? Maybe you live somewhere that gets a lot of snow. Whatever weather is common in your area, try to think of some popular sayings to describe particular types of weather. Feel free to share your weather-related sayings with your Wonder Friends on FacebookWe can’t wait to learn more about how weather is described where you live!
  • How much rain does your area get on average? Do some weather research on the Internet to find out! While you’re at it, do some research to discover what areas in your country get the most and the least rain. Create a graph that plots points for your area and the areas with the most/least rain. How do they compare? Explain your graph to a friend or family member and discuss with them how your area compares to others in terms of average rainfall. Are you glad your area gets the amount of rain that it does? Or would you prefer more or less? Why?

Still Wondering

In National Geographic Xpeditions’ Ancient Flood Stories lesson, children discuss ancient flood stories, including the story of Noah’s Ark.

Test Your Knowledge

Wonder What’s Next?

Tomorrow’s Wonder of the Day may have you calling out, “B — 7!”

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