I can remember the very first summer we lived in AZ and when monsoon season started (we moved from Chicago to Scottsdale when I was a kiddo). That first storm was a doozy! In a matter of minutes it went from sunny to dark and dusty, the wind picked up, rain pounded the house, the power went out and thunder shook the walls. My mom rushed us into the windowless bathroom and made us sit in the bathtub, my dad was out of town and she thought it was a tornado so she was super scared (I mean we did JUST move here!). Today my sis and I tease her about the whole ordeal. BUT after having a convo with some of my mom friends in the neighborhood, many of them new “transplants” to AZ, they had no idea what these storms were all about. I immediately thought “uh oh” – when that first one hits, they could be super scared like my poor mom back in the 80’s.
So I asked my mama friend, sorority sister (bear down!), and co-worker, meteorologist April Warnecke, to give new valley moms the low down and us seasoned moms a refresher, on monsoon season. April tells me monsoon season officially started June 15th, but we won’t see storms until around July 15th. The season ends September 30th.
What is monsoon season?
Monsoon is the Arabic word for “season” and signifies a seasonal shift in the winds that brings moisture into our usually dry atmosphere. Between June and September, our typical westerly winds switch to a more southerly or easterly flow and dew points (a measure of moisture in the air) begin to rise. The intense summer heat works with that moisture to bring daily storms in parts of the state. When storms form to the south of Phoenix, outflow winds from those storms can sometimes push walls of dust into the Valley. We average around 8 to 12 of these dust storms each summer, with higher numbers over the past several years because of our region’s ongoing long-term drought. These dust storms can happen anytime during our thunderstorm season, but are most numerous during the first month of the season in June and July.
When that storm hits, what do us moms need to know?
As a mom, I’d say the most important safety tips would be related to lightning and dust storm dangers. Get out of the pool (or off the lake) any time you hear thunder. Lightning can strike even ten miles away from a storm. Children love to play in the rain, but for my kids, I only let them do that once a storm has passed…they can play in the puddles. Lightning is too dangerous to mess with. My kids are also very afraid of lightning so parents may want to reassure their kids before storms arrive about what to expect. My boys love it that we’ve given them their own flashlight for when the power goes out. And I constantly reassure them that they are safe from that scary lightning as long as they are inside.
If you get caught driving in a dust storm, pull over and take your foot off the brake lights. And if you see a dust storm coming, or get a warning about a storm on your phone, don’t chance it and try to run errands. Best to stay home and avoid the danger. Don’t let kiddos play outside after dust storms, the dusty air makes it tough to breathe, especially for anyone with asthma. And after those major dust storms, you may even want to change the air filters in your AC units at your house!
Thank you to April Warnecke, meteorologist from Good Morning Arizona for your help with this post! You can follow her on Facebook facebook.com/AprilWarnecke or Twitter: @aprilwarnecke.