| Monsoon Safety Announcement
Summer in the Southwest
Each year, a variety of weather related dangers affect the American Southwest, especially from late spring into early autumn. Through a collaborative effort between National Weather Service offices serving Arizona and New Mexico, southern portions of California and Nevada, and southwest Texas, which includes offices located in Tucson, Phoenix, Flagstaff, Las Vegas, San Diego, Oxnard, Albuquerque, El Paso/Santa Teresa and Midland/Odessa, the time period from June 15th through September 30th has been defined as "The Monsoon." A period of extreme heat is typically ongoing at its onset, which in the coming days or weeks is followed by an influx of moisture leading to daily rounds of thunderstorms. The heat is deadly in its own right, causing more deaths than any other weather hazard in the region each year. In addition, thunderstorms present an array of hazards which often strike suddenly and with violent force.
Lightning strikes, high winds, dust storms, wildfires, tornadoes, flash flooding and extreme heat cause numerous deaths and injuries along with tens of millions of dollars of damage each year (see www.ncdc.noaa.gov/stormevents/). Road closures, as well as power and communication outages are additional consequences of monsoon weather hazards.
The goal of Monsoon Safety Awareness Week is to reduce the number of deaths, injuries and property damage caused by weather related dangers that occur during the monsoon. Through education about proper precautionary actions to be taken, lives can be saved and property losses can be minimized.
Warning Information for Monsoon Season
Armed with Doppler radars, powerful supercomputers, advanced weather satellites, automated weather and stream gages, and an advanced lightning detection network, forecasters at the National Weather Service are able to provide highly accurate severe weather warnings.
Advanced National Weather Service computer systems now allow warnings to be generated in seconds for highly detailed areas. Those warnings are then transmitted to the public, the media and emergency management officials via NOAA Weather Radio, the Emergency Alert System, and the Internet.
Television meteorologists play critical roles in the warning process. They relay National Weather Service warnings to the public and provide additional detail about the storms, what they are doing and where they are going.
Weather Terminology — Understanding Watches, Warnings, and Advisories
- Watches mean that widespread severe weather is possible.
- A watch means that severe weather has not occurred yet, but weather conditions are becoming highly volatile. Pay close attention to the weather, and tune into TV, radio, or NOAA Weather Radio broadcasts frequently.
- Warnings (Severe Thunderstorm, Flash Flood, Dust Storm, or in rare cases, Tornado) mean that life-threatening weather is about to occur, or has been reported. Take action immediately.
- Flood Advisories mean heavy rains will cause minor flooding of washes, streams, and typical flood-prone areas. Flooding in this situation is usually not serious. If the flooding does become life threatening, then the flood advisory is upgraded to a Flash Flood Warning.
Warnings are not issued for lightning, mainly because most thunderstorms, no matter how weak, produce deadly cloud-to-ground lightning.
- Tucson, Phoenix, Albuquerque, and El Paso average 6.06, 2.77, 4.12, and 5.14 inches of precipitation respectively during the Monsoon. A plethora of rainfall statistics can be found at the NWS Monsoon Tracker page.
- On average, over 1.5 million lightning strikes occur in Arizona and New Mexico each year. This accounts for over 15% of all lightning strikes in the lower 48 states. See lightningsafety.noaa.gov for additional lightning statistics.
- The highest risk of tornadoes is in eastern New Mexico during April through July, but tornadoes have been verified in most New Mexico counties. New Mexico averages about 10 tornadoes in a year. Even though Arizona rarely experiences a tornado, they do occur (an average of four every year). However, thunderstorm-generated winds can exceed 100 mph over a fairly large area, with the damage looking very much like tornado damage.