A unique aspect of living in Arizona is that a hot summer day can suddenly turn into a rainy day with flash floods. In fact, July and August are some of the wettest months of the year in Phoenix, according to rssweather.com.
“Monsoons are created when moisture meets with extreme summer heat and the humidity increases,” according to the Arizona Emergency Information Network. “This creates perfect conditions for weather hazards like heavy rain, high winds, lightning, dust storms and flash floods.”
Use these tips to prepare before monsoon season begins this summer.
Pay attention to nearby hazards
Arizona’s hard, parched earth does not absorb rainwater readily, which means precipitation will flow over the surface and run down washes and gutters, sometimes leading to localized flooding and landslides. Long-time residents and local municipalities should be able to tell you whether nearby streambeds are likely to flood and to point out dangerous hillsides.
“Although some landslides require lengthy rain and saturated slopes, a debris flow can start on a dry slope after only a few minutes of intense rain, like Arizona’s monsoons,” according to the Arizona Emergency Information Network.
If you’re driving and reach a road with water across it, you should follow a local motto: turn around, don’t drown.
“Six inches of fast-moving water can knock down an adult, and 18 inches of water can carry most vehicles away,” according to the Arizona Emergency Information Network. “Avoid low water crossings and areas that are already flooded.”
Plan for contingencies
If you have road trip plans during monsoon season, make a backup plan in case a monsoon hits when you’re about to leave or on the road. Even short periods of rain can cause slick streets that lead to skid-related car accidents.
“It doesn’t help that in addition to the slick roads and flooding, the sun often stays out or pops out shortly after, which turns the wet roadways into mirrors so you can’t see lane lines,” according to phoenix.org. “You could also get blinded depending on the direction of travel.”
When possible, it is best to wait a few hours for pavement to dry before heading out or to pull over until rain passes.
Take care of runoff
Runoff from heavy rain can carry harmful pollutants down the drain and into nearby water sources.
“Pollutants must be managed at the source to ensure the environment downstream (and there is always someone or something downstream) is protected for others to use, either for recreation (fishing or swimming) or source water (to drink from and bathe in),” according to local nonprofit STORM, which promotes stormwater education.
Common pollutants include pet waste, garden chemicals, oil and grease, and garbage. You should collect and dispose of pet waste in a garbage or toilet; use just enough weed killer, fertilizer, and pest control chemicals to enhance and protect your yard without unnecessary excess; properly clean up and dispose of oil and grease; and pick up any garbage.
Another way to prevent harmful runoff is to conserve water used in landscaping. STORM recommends checking your sprinkler or irrigation system for leaks, adjusting your sprinklers to prevent overspray, and xeriscaping with drought-friendly plants and features that require less watering than a grass lawn.
If you see your local stormwater system flooding or full of trash, reach out to your local homeowner association or city, so you are ready for the monsoons.