Monsoon Preparedness

The word monsoon describes a seasonal shift in wind direction from the west or northwest in the winter to a southerly or southeasterly direction in the summer. The change draws moisture from the Eastern Pacific northward into the desert Southwest, where our extreme heat helps turn it into thunderstorms, including lightning, dust storms and heavy rains. The monsoon typically arrives in mid to late June over northwest Mexico, and early July over the southwest U.S. Once the monsoon is underway, mountain ranges, including the Mogollon Rim, contribute to the development of daily thunderstorms and lightning.

Although the monsoon brings welcome rains and relief from our summer heat, the thunderstorms and high winds that acompany the monsoon can cause dust stormsfloods and debris flows. Flash floods and debris flows pose a significant threat to residents of and visitors to Oak Creek Canyon north of Sedona, Ariz. In May and June 2014, the Slide Fire burnt 21,227 acres and forced officials to close Canyon trails and campgrounds and Slide Rock State Park for the summer. Conditions have improved in Oak Creek Canyon, but there is still reason to prepare.

READ Oak Creek Canyon on the mend but not out of the woods

Overall, summer is the most dangerous time of year--weather-wise--in Arizona. Consequently, Gov. Doug Ducey last week proclaimed June 14 to 19 Monsoon Awareness Week in an effort to get more Arizonans to prepare for monsoon emergencies.

(source: U.S. National Weather Service)