This year’s monsoon season in particular has been exceptionally wet, especially when compared to the average amount of rain Flagstaff usually sees. The increase has been dramatic, with Flagstaff now seeing 8.67 inches of rain this year, and the historical average of 2.75 inches of rain per monsoon season, according to National Weather Service meteorologist Megan Taylor.
The state-run online reference Arizona Experience explains that monsoon storms tend to peak between the middle of July and middle of August. As August concludes, Flagstaff saw the rainfall replaced with high winds. Since Flagstaff is a mountain town at a higher elevation it receives more rainfall than other towns in Arizona at lower elevations.
With this high amount of rain comes certain hazards. The thunderstorms bring flooding, high winds that can cause property damage, hail and of course lightning. Taylor went on to state that the storms are even responsible for deaths.
“Thunderstorms create hazards,” said Taylor. “Every year we see a fatality caused by lightning strikes in Arizona.”
Taylor warned the biggest threat in her opinion was still flash flooding, as not only can flash floods cause property damage, but deaths as well.
Stacy Brechler-Knaggs, grants and contracts manager for the city of Flagstaff gave insight as to the scope of damages so far.
“Regarding the July 2018 monsoon, we had numerous damage sites,” said Brechler-Knaggs. “This led to primarily city-wide debris removal on our Flagstaff Urban Trails System and in our city parks. Drainage culvert cleanup, emergency sandbagging operations and etcetera.”
He went on to share the economic impact of the monsoon season so far.
“The preliminary estimated amount of damage is $273,000,” Brechler-Knaggs said.
According to a BBC newsround guide, flooding can spread infections that can cause vomiting and diarrhea. Other hazards accompany this as well, from downed power lines to drowning.
Within the Flagstaff area some roads end up being closed down due to flooding. This can cause traffic to build up and it is an inconvenience, to say the least.
The biggest tip meteorologist Megan Taylor had for Flagstaff locals was to stay informed, reminding people that up-to-date weather reports were always available to view at the National Weather Service website. Knowing when and where these storms will strike will allow people to plan ahead in preparation of monsoons.
Although there are dangers with the monsoon season, there are also benefits to it as well.
Taylor further explained that in April, there were closures in the Coconino National Forest due to fire restrictions, resulting in people not being allowed to enter or camp in many popular areas including Humphreys Peak.
“People have been looking for moisture to mitigate forest fire danger,” Taylor said.
Despite the abnormal amount of rain, there have still been fires in the area, but the rain has aided in fire-fighting efforts. As of July 11, fire restrictions were lifted.
As Flagstaff transitions into fall, the monsoons are expected to decrease, but monsoon thunderstorms in Arizona can still develop quickly and can happen at any time.
Although some Flagstaff locals welcomed the rain as it brought an end to fire restrictions, it brought other hazards. Taking all the right precautions to stay safe and preventing injury is recommended.
Despite being almost 6 inches above average, Flagstaff saw a gradual decline in rainfall toward the end of August, which indicated that the worst of the monsoon season has passed.
Thankfully, this means flooding and other hazards associated with the monsoons will end.
Despite the monsoons coming to an end in September, damages have still been made to the city and it has been quite costly.
With a few more weeks left in the monsoon season, it does not hurt to be prepared. Put on a jacket, use that umbrella and drive with extra caution if caught in a storm.