Arizona, one of the most unique states in the nation, also features one of the nation’s most unique weather phenomena – the monsoon. It is almost impossible to spend time in Arizona during the months of June, July, August, or September without witnessing one of these strange and awe-inspiring weather events. They bring true wonder to our state, but they also bring danger to our roads.
The word “monsoon” comes from the Arabic word “mausim” which translates as both “wind shift” and “season.” It is clear why this term was applied to the unique storms which take place here in Arizona. Typically, they blow in suddenly and very quickly, and they only occur during a very specific season. Officially, this season lasts from June 15 to September 30. Winds rise and swiftly blow dark and towering storm clouds over what moments ago was a beautiful shining blue sky. Usually, torrential rain follows.
The primary danger of monsoon thunderstorms is flooding. They dump massive amounts of water out of the sky onto our dry desert floor. The desert does a poor job of absorbing this water, so it pools and gathers. This can result in flash flooding. People do not typically associate Arizona with floods, but they do happen, and they are very dangerous. Imagine a wall of water rushing at you with all the force of a freight train.
Monsoon thunderstorms can also stir up massive clouds of dust. These dust clouds sometimes reach hundreds of feet into the sky. They can frighten drivers and make it almost impossible to see. It is extremely important to exercise caution when caught in these dust storms. Drive slowly and keep your eyes on the road. Don’t let the storm distract you.