The monsoon finally reached Rim Country this weekend, with pounding afternoon thunderstorms, wild winds — even twisters.
It’s about time — sighed many residents, as the fire danger plunged.
Brian Kimowski of the National Weather Service (NOAA) said Northern Arizona will remain in a monsoon pattern all week. “There will be very prolific storms with lots of heavy rain ... (and) we are going to have thunderstorms.”
Bad news for anxious pets and people, but great news when it comes to putting an end to a deadly fire season. Crews can step down from high alert.
On the other hand: Rim Country now has to worry about flash floods.
The NOAA Web site reports that due to recent heavy rainfalls that have saturated soils, it issued a flash flood warning for all of Northern Arizona from Monday, July 22 at noon until Tuesday, July 23 and 1 a.m.
“Slow moving thunderstorms producing heavy rainfall and flash flooding,” says the Web site. “Stay out of creeks and streams. Rainfall from distant storms may travel to your location.”
Kimowski said we’re in the midst of an active monsoon pattern that could go until September, which is the normal ending date of monsoon season.
However, the wild weather over the weekend caused havoc in Star Valley.
Gary Hatch, fire chief of Hellsgate said he and his crew responded to calls for help at the Lamplighter Trailer Park and the Spur Bar over the weekend for downed trees and tree branches.
A twister or micro-burst cracked off huge limbs of trees and blew over others.
“We do have a witness,” said Hatch. “One guy was coming into Star Valley and saw it was a twister.”
The witness said the wind event started at the Spur Bar and ended in the Lamplighter Mobile Home Park.
Hatch said a huge oak branch barely missed hitting the awning at the Spur Bar where more than a dozen patrons sat watching the storm and enjoying their beverages.
“Luckily, instead of falling directly on the awning the wind blew the 800-pound branch 40 feet out to the parking lot,” said Hatch.
At the Lamplighter, Hatch said trees fell on a car and four RVs. He said the damage to the trailers was not enough to force the residents to move out, however.
Hatch reported the Payson Fire Department and trailer park residents came to help clean up the debris, which covered every roadway. Even so, emergency crews were short-staffed and he had to pitch in to help.
“I ran a chain saw for an hour and a half and that’s hard on an old man,” he said.
Fortunately none of the trees disrupted electrical service.
In fact, the Rim Country miraculously avoided any mass outages, said Steve Quinn, North-East Arizona Area Manager for APS.
“We had some outages in Tonto Basin and the Young area, but nothing significant,” said Quinn.
He said he covers an area from Holbrook to Tonto Basin and so far the storms have not overwhelmed the system.
“Our lines took quite a few lightning strikes, but we were extremely lucky they came right back on line,” he said, “Those poles and wires are like lightning rods.”
He did admit this past weekend’s storms were quite the weather events. If any lightning had hit a transformer, it could have knocked out power for 2,000 to 3,000 people.
Despite the active weather events, Quinn says he is relieved the wet weather is finally here.
Officially, Payson received just .15 inches of rain on Monday. However, we’re up to 2.7 inches for the month so far and 10.46 inches for the year, a little bit less than the long-term average. However, areas atop the Rim and around Flagstaff are having a much wetter than normal monsoon. A Facebook post by NOAA said that between June 15 and July 20, this monsoon season has been the fourth wettest for Flagstaff and the seventh wettest for Show Low.
The Valley also reported flooding, especially in Apache Junction. Monsoon storms dumped 1 to 3 inches of rain in different areas of the Valley.
And it’s not over yet.