CASA GRANDE — A seasonal weather pattern that brings high hopes for rain, thunder and lightning was a dud across central Arizona this year.
The monsoon season runs from mid-June through September, characterized by a shift in wind patterns and moisture being pulled in from the tropical coast of Mexico.
U.S. Weather Service meteorologist Isaac Smith said Phoenix received only .66 inch of moisture this monsoon season, making it the fifth driest monsoon season on record.
Casa Grande was just a little wetter but only tallied a total of 1.35 inches of moisture.
“It’s been pretty dry across south-central Arizona, including Pinal County, well below average for rainfall,” Smith said. “Much of Pinal County received less rain than most of the Phoenix metro area.”
Several communities in northern Arizona, including Flagstaff and Phantom Ranch at the bottom of the Grand Canyon, had the driest monsoon season on record.
Flagstaff normally gets 8.3 inches of rain in monsoon season but had 2.08 inches — the driest in more than 120 years of record keeping. The Grand Canyon airport, Teec Nos Pos on the Navajo Nation and Show Low also had record low rainfall.
The only northern Arizona locale that hit its average was Jerome, a former copper mining town, with 7.33 inches. Tucson and Nogales in southern Arizona came in close to normal.
It’s hard to say why the Southwest overall had less rainfall than normal or explain why rain dumps on one area but not another. During recent tropical storms in Arizona, many in Casa Grande complained that the rain seemed to hit the Tucson and Phoenix areas but bypass them.
For people who live below areas scorched by wildfire, a nearly non-existent monsoon means less of a chance for severe flooding. The same goes for residents who live near or drive through normally dry washes.
“Just about the only downside I can think of is the weather enthusiasts who look forward to the rain and lightning and storms every year,” said Matthew Hirsch with the weather service in Phoenix. “It’s kind of disappointing in that regard.”
National forests in New Mexico and Arizona largely were free of fire restrictions this summer, thanks to an above-average snowpack last winter. The exception was the Superstition Mountains in Tonto National Forest, where the Woodbury Fire scorched more than 120,000 acres and leaving soil exposed to runoff. During recent storms, homes near Roosevelt Lake experienced debris runoff and a section of State Route 88 (Apache Trail) has been closed because of damage from flooding along the roadway.
The odds for the upcoming winter are tilted toward above-average temperatures but no strong signal on snow or rain, the weather service said.