What is a Monsoon?
A monsoon is not a storm in itself, but rather it’s a wind system that blows in opposite directions during different times of the year. The direction in which the wind is blowing determines the weather in that region, until the wind shifts direction again.
For example, the monsoon in Southeast Asia and India brings very heavy rainfall in the summer. In Arizona, our monsoon occurs primarily from June to September, increasing our humidity and bringing afternoon thunderstorms with heavy rainfall, lightning, strong winds, dust and flash floods to the Valley. All of these can endanger homeowners, motorists and anyone caught outside unaware.
During monsoon season, the National Weather Service in Arizona may issue the following watches or warnings:
- A severe thunderstorm watch means conditions are right for development of thunderstorms that may bring heavy rain, strong winds and dust, dangerous lightning and hail.
- A severe thunderstorm warning means such a storm is already occurring in the warned area.
- A flash flood watch means there is a possibility of flooding due to heavy rain falling over a specific land area. Rain can quickly fill dry riverbeds and washes, flood roads, and creating potentially life-threatening danger.
- A flash flood warning means that a flash flood is occurring and anyone in the warned area should seek higher ground immediately. If your vehicle becomes surrounded by rising water, get out quickly and move to higher ground. Do not drive into flooded roads.
- A dust storm warning means that strong winds have kicked up a wall of dust (also called a “haboob”) that is moving into the area and will impair your visibility. When driving in a dust storm or when weather conditions worsen, turn on headlights, slow down and allow more space between you and the car ahead. Use the center line as a guide.
It’s best to avoid dust storms while driving, if you can: “Pull Aside, Stay Alive.” Pull off the road and move as far to the right as possible. Turn off the car and headlights and set the parking brake. Remove your foot from the brake pedal or other drivers may think you’re a car in motion. Never stop on the pavement.
Lightning is also a danger in our monsoon storms. Observe the following safety tips:
- You are in the lighting strike zone if you hear thunder five seconds or less after seeing the lighting.
- Avoid wide-open areas such as fields and golf courses.
- Stay off hilltops and other high points of land.
- Don’t stand near trees or tall poles.
- Stay away from downed power lines to avoid risk of electrocution.
Floods can strike quickly and without warning. If evacuation is advised, know where to go, how to get there and what to take before a flood occurs. Remember the five P’s of immediate evacuation:
- People and pets
- Personal computer
For longer evacuations, identify places where you could go in an emergency—to other family members, fire stations or Community buildings. Know alternate routes in case your route becomes blocked, and have everyone in the family agree on an evacuation and meet-up plan.
If your property regularly floods during the monsoon season, check with Salt River Pima-Maricopa Indian Community Public Works or the nearest fire station for the availability of sandbags.
Build a 72-Hour Kit to Prepare for Any Emergency
It’s smart to have at least two emergency supply kits: one full kit for your home and a second, portable kit for your workplace and/or vehicle.
The following items should be in a basic household emergency kit:
- Three-day supply of non-perishable food
- Three-day supply of water (1 gallon of water per person, per day)
- Portable, battery-powered radio or television and extra batteries
- Flashlight and extra batteries
- First-aid kit
- Sanitation and hygiene items
- Matches in a waterproof container
- Whistle to signal for help
- Extra clothing
- Kitchen accessories and cooking utensils, including manual can opener
- Credit cards and identification cards
- Important papers
- Prescription medications, eyeglasses, contact-lens solutions and hearing-aid batteries
- Medications and care items for senior citizens and people with disabilities
- Items for infants, such as formula, diapers, bottles and pacifiers
- Items for pets, such as food and water