7/9/2014 6:00:00 AM First monsoon storm of the season just misses Quartzsite
Times photo/JOANNE WINER
One couple lost their trailer when a microburst caused it to roll five times with the inhabitants inside. No one was seriously injured.
Joanne Winer QUARTZSITE TIMES
QUARTZSITE, Ariz. - According to the new way monsoon season is determined, monsoon actually started several weeks ago. Until this past Thursday, there were no storms anywhere in the state. But the first monsoon storm hit the southeastern part of Arizona and traveled north as far as Flagstaff. Phoenix got a huge thunderstorm, with rain falling all day and into the night from the system that came up through the southeastern part of the state that created a deluge in the Tucson area as it kept going north.
Along with the high winds, the first sign of the monsoon was a huge dust "haboob" that spread all over the valley and caused the sky to become dark, as if it was night already. Trees were knocked down all over Phoenix and washes were running all through the desert areas - it was quite a spectacle for those who braved the outdoors to witness it themselves (even though warnings were given to stay indoors during the lightning).
Flash floods also occurred in the desert areas, especially where there recently had been forest fires and the vegetation could not hold the unrelenting downpour with the desert areas so dry that the excessive water raining down couldn't soak or evaporate fast enough. And the water runoff, especially from the hills and mountains, starts pouring down washes, ravines, and streets so fast that it cannot do anything but keep pushing along, gathering mud, rocks, and other debris along the way and causing a lot of areas to be filled with dangerous areas, which is why it is never a good idea to try to cross a wash that has running water in it.
Unfortunately, although the rain did not hit Quartzsite during Arizona's first monsoon storm of the season, the second storm did major damage in the Quartzsite area this past Saturday when a huge microburst hit the center of town, causing a parking shed at La Mesa RV Center to fly over a 10 foot-plus high fence along Highway 95 and land in the middle of the road over the top of a car that was driving over the bridge. Fortunately, no one was injured during that ordeal, but the structure was totally destroyed and had to be removed from the road by a frontend loader. Further south on Highway 95, at the area where the Big Tent is set up during the season, several sheds were destroyed and items were scattered all over the grounds.
One of the worst things that occurred during this microburst, when the winds are extremely high for a short time, was a trailer that was parked at the La Posa Long Term Camping entrance area rolled five times and came to rest near the roadway. The trailer was totally destroyed, and the owners, a couple, were inside the entire time. The couple sustained several cuts and bruises, but the trailer was a total loss. It had to be peeled open to free them and opened again to let them salvage what they could before it was hauled off.
Many businesses lost signage, poles, tarps and roofs, and lots of tree limbs were scattered all over town. Some stores sustained rain damage, but the microburst that hit the center and east end of town did more damage in a few minutes than anything. Visibility during this storm was very poor and the storm and rain also caused the washes in town to fill up and run like a raging river.
There is such a thing in this state as the "Stupid Motorist" law, which means that if there is a running wash, a flash flood warning, and roads have signs not to cross, and the warnings are ignored and the motorist gets caught in the flooding water and have to be rescued, the motorist is responsible for paying for all the emergency help received. This law was put into effect because of the high number of people getting caught up in the fast running water and were either swept away or got vehicles caught up on debris. The rescuers of the motorists put their lives on the line to help, and it takes valuable time to rescue someone who wouldn't have needed help if they had obeyed the warnings.
It is always hopeful that the desert will get rain during the hot summer months, and there are usually some good storms this way. So it can be expected that the area will get the monsoon storms that are famous. There is an old saying "be careful what you wish for". And although the area really does need the rain to help offset the heat and fire dangers, sometimes it can be more than wished. With more monsoon weather in the upcoming few months, beware of the hazards and take precautions around homes and while traveling to prevent getting caught up in a bad situation.