Monsoons in Arizona?

With a recent storm hitting in full force last month, we definitely felt the effects of the monsoon season here in Arizona.

A Child’s Joy the flood following a monsoon in Phoenix on May 29, 2014

If you saw the water rescues in Laveen on live TV when it aired, those were some of our neighbors. As the water flowed down the mountain and rushed by on its way to the river, it took a detour through our farm (and our living room).

We had six inches of water in our house, lost all of our wood floors, carpeting, the first two feet of drywall, and a lot of furniture.

Fortunately, no one was hurt, but it made us think of some of the things we take for granted living in the desert, and one of those things was being in a “flood-free” zone, and never believing we would need flood insurance in Arizona.

A Child’s Joy monsoon

We’re now adjusting to concrete floors and sitting on boxes until we can start to rebuild.

So, we wanted to share some information on how to properly prepare for a monsoon, what to watch for, and how to stay safe.

How Does This Happen?

A monsoon is actually more common in dry, desert areas than in tropical areas, as most people would be led to believe.

Monsoons are caused by warm air creating low surface pressure that draws moisture from the ocean. This, combined with the low pressure from the desert heat, produces storms in a cycle of “bursts” or heavy rainfall.

However, before the rainfall, the wind can trigger massive dust storms known as haboobs, which appear as loose, swirling walls of dust several hundred feet high.

A Child’s Joy haboob

Safety Tips

Here are few safety tips to keep you and your family safe if you find yourself traveling to Arizona this month:

  1. To avoid being struck by lightning, do not stand near trees or tall poles. Stay in your home or vehicle if possible.
  2. Avoid areas that are prone to flooding. The rains come swiftly and heavily.
  3. Do not use a telephone.
  4. Avoid large farm equipment, golf carts, and other large metal equipment.
  5. Dust devils are also associated with monsoons. Try to avoid getting caught in one.
  6. Visibility can be near zero when monsoon thunderstorms are raging. If driving in a dangerous storm, find somewhere to safely park your car.
  7. If you pull your car over to the side of the road, do not leave your lights on. Drivers with little or no visibility behind you may think you are still on the road and follow you. Smack!
  8. Arizona rarely experiences tornadoes. You might see a microburst now and then. They, too, are scary.
  9. If you are outside hiking or camping, be aware of quick wind shifts, rapid drops in temperature, and increasing wind velocity. These are signals for thunderstorm activity.
  10. If you are on a boat, get to land.
  11. Do not huddle closely together with other people. Spread out.
  12. Avoid wide-open areas.
  13. If your hair starts to stand on end, that is a sign of electricity—you may be about to be struck by lightning. Drop to your knees and cover your head.
  14. NEVER drive through moving water. Only six inches of rushing water is enough to wash your car away.

The monsoon season in Arizona begins on June 15 and runs through the end of September. If you happen to be traveling through Arizona during that time, make sure you take the proper safety measures beforehand.

Learn from our misfortune; even though you may not be in a flood plain, or be required by your mortgage company to have flood insurance, please consider buying it. It’s not as expensive as you may think, and is available for renters too.

Your regular homeowners policy does not cover the tens of thousands of dollars of potential damage a flood can cause.

We wish you and your family a safe and pleasant adventure through our beautiful and amazing state!

Come play with us!

Jim and Laurie Prendergast