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What is a Monsoon?

Posted on: October 25th, 2011

By Patricia Eckert of the Diane Olson Team

Wherever you live there is a weather condition that is ‘normal’ (I use the term loosely) for the area.   Arizona has its hot summer and is a state that has a Monsoon Season. 

Hot is easy, it is HOT!  But you might ask:  What is a Monsoon?  The word “monsoon” comes from the Arabic word “mausim” which means “a season”.

In Arizona, the Monsoon season starts with the hot dry weather in May and extends through September.  What cause the Monsoon’s are strong changes in temperatures over land masses.  The hot, dry weather and shift in winds over an area, add moisture, which trigger seasonal rain, and adds the humidity factor to the valley.   Most of our humid air comes from the Sea of Cortez, but a good portion also comes from the Gulf of Mexico.  Strong summer sun, heats the moist air causing the familiar thunderstorm (cumulonimbus) clouds.  Add in lightening and rain and it can be beautiful to watch in doors, and very dangerous if you’re out in it.  

The storm starts with the winds, which produce huge walls of dust and then comes (we hope) the rain, which can be buckets of water, and within minutes people are running for cover, streets are flooded, and roads are closed.  The clouds move quickly out of the area, leaving the air hot and thick with humidity.

Here are some good pointers if you experience a monsoon:

If you’re driving:

  • Slow Down, the oils and other automotive fluids are being washed off the roads causing unusually slick conditions.
  • Most people will reduce their speed, but keep driving straight.  Don’t change lanes unless absolutely necessary.
  • If your visibility is impeded, pull off the highway as far as you can, turn off your lights, and keep your foot off the brake pedal.  If other drivers see your brake lights, they may follow you and an accident could happen. 

DO NOT ignore a sign that say “Do Not Cross When Flooded”  – you could regret it

If you’re hiking or camping in low lying areas get to high ground

If you’re in a boat, get to land.

The monsoon lasts longer in southern Arizona than in northern Arizona.  In the Phoenix area, it really starts in July and ends in September.  During the dry Monsoon months (April, May and June), we get approximately 6% of our normal yearly rain (we hope).  The wettest months (again we hope!) are July, August, September; we get an average of 32% of our normal rainfall.

If you have a vacation home here in Arizona I strongly suggest you make sure that your lawn furniture is stored in the garage or secure place.  The strong wind can move furniture, cushions, etc.  and trees can experience breakage.  It’s always good to be prepared.

 Diane Olson is a former Canadian police officer whose team of agents  has earned its reputation as Canada’s go-to realtor for Canadians looking to buy vacation and investment property in Arizona.

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