Arizona's Monsoon By Lola Smith What is "monsoon"? Monsoon is defined as seasonal winds accompanied by changes in precipitation. The word was widely used to describe the changes in weather patterns in West Africa and Asia/Australia but other parts of the world have taken on the word to describe their rainy season and Southern Arizona is no exception. The Southern Arizona monsoon hits us usually around the 4th of July (but can arrive earlier in the middle of June) and runs through September. That day sticks in my head because we all wonder if the annual fireworks show will go on or be canceled due to rain. So is it a day on the calendar that marks the beginning of monsoon season around here? In the past, the way the start of monsoon was calculated was the dew point had to be at 55% or higher for 3 consecutive days. Once that occurred, our monsoon official started. The state has now chosen to call the dates of June 15th through September 30th our monsoon season. During the monsoon, our days start out with blue skies and puffy white clouds but by mid afternoon, the skies turn dark and grey. The winds pick up and pull moisture from the Gulf of Mexico or the Sea of Cortez only to dump it onto the thirsty desert floors of Arizona. What can the residents of Arizona expect from the monsoon? Violent storms, lightning, thunder, torrential rain and flash flooding! This is a volatile time of year for us as the weather, though predicted, can take some drastic turns for the worse. Downed power poles, deadly flash flooding, power outages, city street flooding and lightning strikes are just some of the dangers from these storms. The high winds and rain levels are the most damaging. A couple of days ago, we were hit with a massive storm that had very high winds. The winds were so high that they actually flipped a jet plane onto another jet plane in the "boneyard" at Davis Monthan Air Force Base here in Tucson, AZ. We have a law in Arizona called "The Stupid Motorist" law. This law calls for a person to be charged with fines if a rescue needs to be conducted because they entered into a flooded roadway that was barricaded. We have many roadways that run though flood potential areas and every year, the barricades are placed only to be ignored by some. And for some who do not heed the warning, they should have thought twice about it because their life was taken by Mother Nature. During the monsoon, there is no warning when a flood prone area may turn into a raging river that is strong enough to wash cars down the makeshift river beds the currents are creating. Driving during a monsoon storm takes all a person has to keep themselves and other drivers safe on the roads. Because the weather in AZ is usually dry and hot, the rains are welcomed around these parts. There is a bit of excitement when the rains hit. At dawn, the sunrise can be beautiful. And at sunset, if there is not a late evening storm passing through blocking the sun, the sky turns into a spectacular canvass due to the clouds and the colors of the sun shining through. The desert of Southern Arizona is where I call home and every year Mother Nature comes and visits us in a potentially deadly but yet beautiful kind of way. As long as one is monsoon smart, staying safe is easily done.