Last year I posted this article under "Monsoon Season is Here! Get Ready for Some Wild Arizona Weather"
I've decided to repost it because many of my clients, looking to relocate to Sun City Grand, Sun City Festival, Sun City West or one of the many other Arizona golf retirement communities, have asked me, "What is a monsoon?". Since today is the 1st official day of the 2009 Arizona monsoon season I thought I would share my personal experience with a monsoon here in our fair city of Surprise Arizona.
I should add that although this is officially Day 1 of the new monsoon season, the weather forecasters are telling us it will be awhile before we see our first storm.
For years before moving here I heard about the Arizona monsoon season from my sister-in-law. She would tell me about the atmospheric pressure building up, the rising humidity levels, and the lightning. She'd also tell me about the dust storms that would most often preceed the rains. Then she explained that you wanted the rain because that would cool things off and the "pressure" would be relieved. And last but not least, she would end her musings with how much she enjoyed the monsoon season.
Living in Seattle, and not having experienced an Arizona monsoon storm first hand, I really had no concept of what to expect after moving here..
Before 2008, the beginning of the monsoon season was determined by having three consecutive days with dew points of at least 55 degrees. (HUH? In Seattle we had 10 different names for varying degrees of precipitation but this AZ weather terminology was a whole different animal).
Last year the National Weather Service decided to change it to set dates beginning June 15 and ending Sept. 30. That ends the weather service's decades-old system of using dew points to mark the onset of our summer thunderstorms.
As a side note, the earliest start to the traditional monsoon came on June 16, 1925; the latest arrival was July 25, 1987. The average start is usually mid-July.
Now for the first hand experience part... When my sister-in-law would tell me about the dust storms that typically preceed the rainfall, I was thinking a little wind that of course would bring with it a little dust. We live in the desert after all. There is no shortage of dust.
I was completely unprepared for the realty of my first dust storm. You may have seen pictures of one of our annual storms since we quite often get national coverage of the sight. Picture a wall of dust several miles high and even more miles wide rolling up I-10 from Mexico, through Tucson and headed to Phoenix. Can't picture it? Not a problem. Look at the picture below for mini version.
It is quite a sight to behold and "dust storm" does not begin to describe it. I was caught in the middle of one. The "dust" was actually heavy red clay/sand. I couldn't see two feet in front of my car. I was terrified someone would run into the back of my parked car since I had to pull over and stop in the middle of the street. I was almost at an intersection and at times I could just make out the light as it would turn red or green. No one dared to move for about 5 minutes. It started to let up just enough for some of the cars to move around the corner. My turn. I turned right, moving MAYBE 20 feet, and found myself out of the "dust".
I started to breath a sigh of relief, but then the rain drops came. Just enough to turn all that red clay/sand on my windshield into a big mud smear on my windshield. My wipers got a furious workout and thank heavens I had enough fluid in the reservoir to clean it up enough to get home. WOW!!! The only other time I was that scared was when I was in a Fresno fog you could cut with a knife. Just another reminder... we musn't fool with mother nature! And having said that, I know it doesn't compare with what mother nature dishes out in the midwest or other parts of the country. But still, I had no idea living in the desert could dish up some excitement.
One of the parts of monsoon season that my husband and I love, besides the chance of rain, is the light show. Every night the weather reporters tell us of the hundreds of lightening strikes in the last hours. With our unobstructed views here in the valley, mother nature puts on quite a show. We open up our blinds and turn off the lights and watch the bolts of lightning light up the sky all around us.
An unfortunate result of this are horrible forest fires up to the north of us and brush fires that are sometimes difficult to put out because of the hot, dry conditions.
Now, having lived here for the last 7 years, I have to say I too LOVE the monsoon season. I wouldn't relish getting caught in another dust storm, but the summer storms that roll through our area were an unexpected NICE surprise for me.
Living close to the White Tank Mountains affords us some spectacular sunset views with colors you can't imagine. And the clouds that roll through, during our stormy seasons, only add to the interest.
I think people have preconceived ideas of what living in the desert is like. I know I did.
Sometime this winter I may write about how much I love my fireplace. Yes, you read right. Some of us have fireplaces in the Arizona low desert. And those that do have come to appreciate them. More later.
If you are in the market to buy or sell a home in one of the Phoenix west valley active retirement golf communities, please call me or visit my website http://KathyAndersonRealtor.com. Here you will find information on homes for sale in Sun City Grand Surprise Arizona, resales in Corte Bella, Sun City Festival real estate, Arizona Traditions MLS listings, Trilogy at Vistancia and Sun City West, PLUS see a map of the Surprise AZ area retirement communities. Don't hesitate to call or email if you have questions.
Ken Meade Realty
Sun City Grand Office