Monsoon Cloud forming on the horizon.
Photo by Andy Towle.
Rim Country got welcome traces of rain on Wednesday, but not enough to spoil the fireworks show, mitigate the drought or significantly reduce the still worrisome fire danger.
The rain, humidity near 30 percent and temperatures in the 80s instead of the high 90s also dampened the 7.532-acre Canyon
Fire, burning 15 miles northeast of the Blue Ridge Reservoir. With the fire 75 percent contained, the 15 remaining firefighters assigned to the blaze spent the holiday mostly mopping up and patrolling for hot spots.
A mass of warm, moist air remained parked over much of Arizona on Thursday, but the chance of rain will decline to about 20 or 30 percent for the next few days before drying out again over the weekend.
Blame a big mass of hot air out of California pushing into Arizona and forcing the wet unstable air that brought us our first traces of rain in months up into Utah. The U.S. Weather Service said the shift
could create scattered thunderstorms along the eastern half of the Mogollon Rim on Thursday and Friday.
But then, Utah can sure use the blessedly wet air. For almost the first time in two months, Arizona on Wednesday had no serious wildfires burning — while Colorado and Utah still have major problems.
Rim Country could slip into a near-normal monsoon season starting next week, according to Weather Service projections. That’s a welcome relief, since we’ve had fewer than 3 inches of rain so far this year — less than a third of normal.
Virtually all of the forests in Arizona have strict fire restrictions in place. That includes a ban on target shooting, campfires outside of designated campgrounds, fireworks, smoking and driving off-road without a spark arrestor.
The fire danger prompted the Tonto National Forest to shut down the forest in the area north of Highways 87 and 260 up to the edge of the Mogollon Rim. Moreover, the ongoing search for one or more bears that attacked campers recently also prompted the shutdown of a string of campgrounds south of the highway.
Some Rim Country residents on Wednesday afternoon reported an hour or so of significant rain, but the official rainfall measuring stations generally recorded less than a third of an inch.
Weather Service satellites showed most of the rain from Wednesday’s storm restricted to southeastern Arizona, but even there, most areas got less than half an inch.
Streams and reservoirs in Rim Country remain far below normal, despite the first monsoon storm of the season. Roosevelt holds just 56 percent of its capacity, Tonto Creek dries up before it reaches the reservoir, and the Salt and Verde rivers both have less than half of their normal flow.
The Salt River Project shut off the Blue Ridge Reservoir pumps feeding water into the East Verde River nearly two weeks ago, reducing that stream to a near trickle in many places.