A monsoon can be described as a seasonal shift in the prevailing wind direction, that usually brings with it a different kind of weather. From the month of June all the way through September, known as monsoon season in Arizona, the â€œdifferent kind of weatherâ€ is rain, and lots of it.
In 2011, more than eight inches of rain fell in Tucson during monsoon season. Thatâ€™s two inches more than the normal monsoon season rainfall.
Flashfloods, the number one killer during thunderstorms, are a common occurrence during monsoons. Situational awareness is key when participating in outdoor activities during the season.
â€œAlways check your local weather forecasts and advisories before going out,â€ said Staff Sgt. Matthew Anderson, 355th Fighter Wing Ground Safety office. â€œWe had some hikers who lost their lives during a storm. Their side of the mountain was sunny and clear, but it was raining on the other side. The rainwater rushed to their side of the mountain and washed some of them over.â€
Motorist should be particularly vigilant during rainstorms, as the streets can fill up quickly with water.
â€œIf youâ€™re caught in a monsoon while driving, remember to stay calm and in your car,â€ Anderson said. â€œTry to get to a high point and pull the car over to the side of the road and wait for the flood to clear. Call someone to let them know where you are in case a rescue is needed. Also, do not drive through standing water because it could be deeper than it looks, and youâ€™ll get stuckâ€
Under Arizona law, aptly named the â€œStupid Motorist Lawâ€, drivers who enter flooded public streets or highways are liable for the cost of their rescue, including the cost of the emergency response agencies.
â€œDriving into a flooded wash is always a bad idea because you could be swept out into the desert by the moving water,â€ Anderson said. â€œBut this law makes it a bad as well as an expensive decision. Unless you want to risk spending a ton of money to get you and your vehicle picked up once the storm is over, stay out of the washes.â€