Swooning Over Arizona’s Monsoon

Tucson LightningSo if you think the storms near the end of UNDER FALSE PRETENSES are a little overplayed, well, that’s fiction for you. But monsoon season in Arizona is a thing, and not to be taken lightly.

The desert monsoon season, officially between June 15 and September 30, is usually known for spectacular displays of lightning. Check out this photo and article. But last week, a storm damaged 41 airplanes at a general aviation airport in the Phoenix suburb and Chandler, with some overturned.

Such storms are caused by surges of moisture into the region from the Pacific Ocean, Gulf of California or Gulf of Mexico. Once in the desert, the moisture is mixed with triple-digit heat that provides plenty of energy.

The monsoon season to the southeast in Tucson had a big start in late June, when a a storm dropped up to 1.5 inches of rain and hail in less than two hours on Mount Lemmon, the setting for the climax of UNDER FALSE PRETENSES. The season tapered off for awhile and returned with a vengeance last week or so, according to the local news reports.

Keeping in mind that Mount Lemmon is in Southern Arizona, the place receives quite a bit of rainfall in the summer — on average, 7.3 inches in July and 6.8 inches in August, according the the Western Regional Climate Center. And yes, it snows there, an average of 40 inches of powder during the winter months. Like India, the monsoon brings life to a parched region. The storms can also take life, if you’re not careful. Last week, a former star high school athlete died after jumping into a swollen creek, and his body was found downstream.

Former Arizona residents will tell you that if they miss one thing about living in the state, it’s the monsoon storms.

One thing they don’t miss: sandstorms, duststorms or haboobs. Call them what you will, but they’re some of the weirder weather phenomenons. I went through one as a kid when my family was visiting Phoenix, and for some reason we were driving to watch a minor league baseball game. Suddenly there was this wall of dirt coming our way, it got windy and dark, and our rental car was sandblasted. Then it passed, and it was like all was normal again. Oh, yeah, except for the five or 10 minutes of rain that followed. Here’s a link to an awesome haboob video from 2011.

(Photo credit: Tucson.com)

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