With the kick off of the monsoons come mixed feelings of relief and dread for Tucsonans. The desert city has special challenges that come with the expected, yet still unpredictable torrential rains which wash the landscape every year.
We welcome the monsoons to revitalize the parched areas of vegetation, returning them to the soothing, luscious green that we prize. The moisture wakes up the smells from native creosote bushes and generates a clean, earthy smell that is characteristic of the region. Desert dwellers also get to witness some of the most spectacular lightening shows in the world.
The special anatomy of the monsoons, which are actually a large storm system rather than a single storm, is the cause of the abrupt rainfall we experience in the Southwest every summer. The moisture from the Gulf of Mexico and the Gulf of California plus a shift in wind direction from west to southeast and surface low pressure from the desert heat combine to make the recipe for “bursts”, or sudden heavy rainfall.
For as many reasons as we welcome the monsoons, we also must take care when the skies pour down the rain we cannot live without. With these rain bursts come flash floods that can become dangerous quickly for Tucson residents. We often hear that we should avoid the washes when heavy rain is present, which is absolutely true, but the streets can be dangerous, causing auto failures, crashes, and in worse cases, drowning.
The precursor to the 2016 monsoons has already landed. In response to the anticipated weather events, the Pima County Department of Transportation has devised a safety plan to help protect Tucson’s drivers:
- Release up to the minute weather reports, as issued by the National Weather Service
- Closely communicate with the Pima County Regional Flood Control District, which will monitor rainfall with local gauges
- Oversee placement of adequate staff, and road closures as instituted by the Pima County Sheriff’s Department
- Barricade areas that are known to flood
- Set in on-call staff for quick response to road closures, clean up and pavement repair
- Coordinate with the Office of Emergency Management should a weather emergency occur
You can plan your timing and route by being apprised of weather related road closures and road conditions. While you may commonly default to your Metropia app to help you navigate the best routes, be advised that Tucson’s flash floods occur very abruptly, and the app may not be updated with the most current travel information.
The best way to be aware and stay safe during the monsoon this year is to check with the following sources: www.pima.gov to check for road closures which are posted Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., and up to date weather related road conditions from the Pima County Sheriff’s Road Condition Hotline at (520) 547-7510.
Above all, remember the cardinal rule when approaching a flooded area – Turn around, don’t drown! Do not drive through a flooded area, even if it doesn’t look very deep and do not drive around barricades!
For your convenience, you may view this list of roadways in Pima County that are commonly flooded during the monsoon season:
• Andrada Road east of Wentworth Road
• Avra Valley Road (all)
• Camino de Oeste from Gates Pass Road to Sweetwater Drive
• Camino Loma Alta at the Rincon Creek
• Camino Verde from Valencia Road to Bilby Road-Black Wash
• CDO Wash at Wilds Road in Town of Catalina
• Contractor’s Way (all)
• Country Club Road at the Franco Wash
• Drexel Road just east of Alvernon Way
• Freeman Road between Broadway and Old Spanish Trail
• Ft. Lowell Road from Conestoga Avenue to Melpomene
• Gates Pass Road (all)
• Harrison Road at Pantano Wash
• Houghton Road between Andrada and Sahuarita Road
• Ironwood Hills Drive from Shannon Road to Camino de Oeste
• Kinney Road (all)
• Limberlost Road from Soldier Trail to Homestead Avenue
• Manville Road between Reservation Road and Avra Road
• Mark Road from Jeffery Road to Los Reales Road
• Mission Road from Drexel Road to San Xavier Roads
• Old Spanish Trail Road from Jeremy Wash east to Camino Loma Alta Road
• Old Vail Connection Road at the Franco Wash
• Overton Road at Cañada del Oro Wash
• Pump Station Road (all)
• Rinconada Road south from Andrada to Sahuarita Road
• River Road from Sabino Canyon Road to First Avenue
• Sahuarita Road between Houghton Road and Country Club Road
• Sandario Road (all)
• Silverbell Road from Sweetwater Road to Ina Road
• Snyder Hill Road (all)
• Snyder Road from Kolb Road to Sabino Canyon Road
• Soldiers Trail from Limberlost Road to Thunderbird Trail
• Summit Street at the Franco Wash
• Sunset Road from Camino De Oeste to Saguaro National Monument
• Tangerine Road from the Santa Cruz River to Sweetwater Drive
• Tanque Verde Loop from Tanque Verde Road to Speedway
• Tanque Verde Road from Houghton Road to Redington Pass
• Valencia Road from Ajo Way to Black Wash ¼ mile East of Camino Verde
• Wentworth Road (all)