By Rusty Bradshaw
Some Sun City residents found themselves cleaning up a lot of damage after the first heavy monsoon storms of the season July 15-16.
Residents were warned that it will not be the last such storm and damage they will face this year. More storms are in the forecast for coming weeks, and a University of Arizona study indicates the Valley is experiencing fewer wind and rain storms, but they are more intense.
“We went to properties that had several large trees that smashed roofs and air conditioning units,” Jim Fox, Sun City fire marshal, said of the July 15-16 storms.
Fire officials are encouraging residents who are away from their homes to turn the power off to avoid fire risk from storm damage.
“This is a very different monsoon season,” Mike Thompson, Sun City fire chief, said. “We don’t know what to expect.”
Jack Leonard, Sun City fire board member, said he saw three 100-foot trees that were blown over that crushed roofs and AC units. Bob Luger, another fire board member, said there were multiple trees down in the area of Lake Forest Drive.
Sun City Home Owners Association officials also encourage residents to clean up storm damage as soon as possible. But they are urge residents to be cautious of people offering to do the work.
“If you are needing services, the Business Partner Program is available,” Carole Studdard, SCHOA executive director, stated in an alert to members. “All members have been vetted and qualify under SCHOA guidelines to provide responsible services.”
According to a University of Arizona study, residents can expect more intense rain and wind during monsoon season. Although there are now fewer storms, the largest monsoon thunderstorms bring heavier rain and stronger winds than did the monsoon storms of 60 years ago, the scientists report.
“The monsoon is the main severe weather threat in Arizona. Dust storms, wind, flash flooding, microbursts — those are the things that are immediate dangers to life and property,” co-author Christopher Castro, a UA associate professor of hydrology and atmospheric sciences, stated in a press release.
The researchers compared precipitation records from 1950-1970 to those from 1991-2010 for Arizona. They also used those records to verify that their climate model generated realistic results.
“This is one of the first studies to look at long-term changes in monsoon precipitation,” Mr. Castro stated. “We documented that the increases in extreme precipitation are geographically focused south and west of the Mogollon Rim — and that includes Phoenix.”
The region of Arizona with more extreme storms includes Bullhead City, Kingman, the Phoenix metropolitan area, the Colorado River valley and Arizona’s low deserts, including the towns of Casa Grande, Gila Bend, Ajo, Lukeville and Yuma. The Tohono O’odham Reservation, Luke Air Force Base, the Barry Goldwater Air Force Range and the Yuma Proving Ground also are in the region with more extreme monsoon weather.
Having less frequent but more intense storms is consistent with what is expected throughout the world due to climate change, Mr. Castro stated. Study findings were published July 3 in the early online edition of the “Journal of Applied Meteorology and Climatology.”
The researchers wanted to identify risks from warm-season extreme weather, especially those to Department of Defense installations in the American Southwest. Existing global and regional climate change models do not represent the North American monsoon well in either seasonal forecasts or climate projections, the research team wrote.