Statistics confirm the visual evidence of thunderheads, lightning, downpours and flooded roads: We are in the soggy embrace of a monsoon.
As homeowners wrung out mops in the aftermath of wicked storms rolling across the Valley, weather experts compiled data showing the end to a string of summers with below-average rainfall.
Through Tuesday, the National Weather Service’s official gauge showed Phoenix has received 2.54 inches of rain since early July. Not since 1999 has a monsoon brought that much, and this ranks as the third-wettest summer in the last decade.
“We’re certainly getting our fair share,” said David Runyan, warning coordinator meteorologist for the weather service’s Phoenix office.
Residents of east Mesa might say they received an unfair share. According to the Maricopa County Flood Control District, the gauge near McDowell and Meridian roads took in 2.48 inches of rain just from Monday’s storm. In addition, weather officials believe the wind roaring through that area packed damaging gusts up to 80 mph.
That damage was still apparent almost 24 hours after the storm first struck. A crew of 30 from Salt River Project worked in the muggy heat to replace fallen power poles and to restring lines.
At the storm’s peak, about 5,000 SRP customers were without power. But a utility spokesman said restoration would be completed by Tuesday night for all but two dozen customers near University Drive and Sossaman Road.
But as the crew worked near Signal Butte and Brown roads, a 55,000-foot-tall storm cell loomed in the distance, about 25 miles to the north.
“Looks like we’re going to have to do this all over again,” SRP foreman George Hoy said.
The wind damaged three small planes at Williams Gateway Airport. A single-engine Piper broke free from its moorings when a tree fell on the lines. The airplane was blown into a twin-engine Piper, damaging both aircraft. Another single-engine Piper was also damaged when the wind carried it into a fence.
During a typical July, August and September in Phoenix, 2.65 inches of precipitation fall. Although 2006's summer is slightly below that mark, historical norms suggest the monsoon has another three weeks to run. Storms are forecast at least through Friday.
If the season continues its trend, the above-average precipitation will help make up for a historically dry winter. The Valley endured a record stretch of 143 days without precipitation until rain — and snow — came on March 11.
From last Oct. 1, Phoenix’s rainfall total of 4.10 inches is slightly more than half the average (7.24 inches).
The monsoon has been more generous to other parts of Arizona, especially in the south. Tucson has received more than 8 inches of rain through Sunday.
That’s about 2 inches more than usual, and with time left in the season ranks 14th in the city’s records. More than 20 inches have fallen on Mount Lemmon this summer. Clifton recorded close to 10 inches, 157 percent more than normal.
Also notable is the historic event that recently took place three weeks ago at Coronado National Monument, on the U.S.-Mexico border just south of Sierra Vista. There, on July 31-Aug. 1, a foot of rain fell in a 30-hour span. Said Runyan: “There are some fantastic (numbers) out there.”
- Tribune writer Art Martori contributed to this report.