AZ Monsoon Season
When most people think of Arizona they envision dry desert terrain covered with cacti and the occasional dust storm rolling through. What they don’t usually think about is rain, let alone heavy downpours. However, Arizona plays host to what meteorologists have termed “the North American Monsoon,” or as we call it, AZ Monsoon Season, a weather phenomenon that also affects parts of northwest Mexico, New Mexico, and parts of Colorado and Utah.
What is the monsoon season?
The word monsoon originates from the word mausin, Arabic for “season” or “wind shift.” Monsoons occur all over the world in parts of Africa, Asia, Australia, and Europe and are formed when warm air creates surface low pressure zones that draw moist air from the oceans. With the North American Monsoon, this means that the usual western winds shift to the southeast during the summer, allowing moisture to come in from the Gulfs of Mexico and California. When the winds and moisture combine with the surface low pressure produced by the intense desert heat, heavy rainfall forms. Oftentimes these storms are preceded by dust storms (also referred to as haboobs) which are swirling walls of dust that can be several hundred feet high.
When is Monsoon Season in Arizona
When is Monsoon Season in AZ? AZ Monsoon season begins on June 15 and ends on September 30 with storms peaking between mid-July and mid-August. It is during this time period that Arizona receives about half of its annual rainfall (about 8.2 inches in Phoenix) with the more mountainous areas receiving the majority. The downpours that occur during the AZ monsoon season are often short in duration, but the rainfall is heavy which can result in potentially dangerous conditions. For instance, flash flooding becomes a major hazard as there are thousands of low water crossings (also called washes) which flood with heavy rains. Travelers should be aware of their locations and make it a point to avoid them during and after an AZ monsoon storm. In addition, you should never allow children to play near washes after any amount of rainfall; they can flood easily and without warning. Campers should avoid washes, too (as well as streams). While most of the AZ Monsoon thunderstorms occur in the afternoon, flash flooding has occurred at night.
If you find yourself on the road in the middle of an AZ monsoon rain, you should always be on the lookout for flooded roadways and never attempt to drive into the water as water depth is easy to misjudge. Driving into these areas, needing to be rescued can put you in the news as the AZ Stupid Driver laws are there to prevent such carelessness. Be mindful of barricades and route changes and do not ignore them as they are put in place for your safety.
Lastly, it is always wise to check insurance for flood coverage if you are a homeowner. As an Arizona resident you might not think you need it, but flooding is the nation’s leading cause of property loss from natural disasters and Arizona is no exception. The floods of 2014 damaged thousands of homes, not previously in the County Flood Maps. For more information, check out Maricopa County’s Flood Control District’s web site. Be aware that flood insurance must be in effect, a minimum of 30 days prior to a claim, so be flood safe and call your insurance provider today. If you need a good referral for homeowners insurance, please contact me, as I have many valued vendors that may be of service to you.