Monsoon

A Jeep races through floodwater spilling across Morley Avenue on July 17 during the first major downpour of the 2019 monsoon in Nogales.

A not-so-wet monsoon season has now ended, leaving behind precipitation numbers much lower than those of previous years across Santa Cruz County.

“The early predictions for this monsoon season was for the first half to be dry and the latter half to be wet, and it’s pretty much what we saw,” County Floodplain Coordinator John Hays said on Tuesday.

Still, even with some late-season wetness thanks in large part to the remnants of tropical storms Lorena and Mario, the average amount of rainfall across the county was 9.62 inches during the 110-day season, which runs from June 15 to Sept. 30. That was nearly an inch-and-a-half below the average of 11 inches.

Gauge readings around Santa Cruz County ranged from a low of 5.67 inches at Red Mountain in Patagonia to a high of 13.39 inches at the Santa Cruz River gauge near State Route 82.

Other seasonal readings included 9.33 inches at Peña Blanca Lake and 10.67 inches at Ephraim Canyon, near Western Avenue and Interstate 19 in Nogales.

Despite the limited rainfall, this monsoon season still produced a few extreme weather events, including a July 17 thunderstorm that left one large tree at A.J. Mitchell Elementary School in Nogales completely uprooted and several others extensively damaged by strong winds.

A heavy rainstorm on Aug. 21 also resulted in flooding that swept away four people in Nogales, Sonora, carrying them through drainage tunnels that feed into the Nogales Wash in Arizona. Local authorities found and identified three victims’ bodies in the following days, while a fourth man managed to drag himself out of the wash nearly three miles north of the border.

Hays noted that this year’s on-the-dry-side monsoon season wasn’t too big of a concern, as it’s normal for rainfall to fluctuate to some degree each year.

However, he remained hopeful that the area would receive more rainfall during the coming winter season.

“While the amount is larger during the summer, I think the effectiveness of the rainfall is greater during the winter because it comes in at a slower rate,” he said, adding that it gives the water more time to soak into the ground, whereas summer rain quickly runs up north.

“Historically speaking, when there is a strong El Niño off of Mexico, we tend to see wetter winters, so as long as that El Niño stays in place, hopefully we’ll get more rain,” Hays said.

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