Monsoons Bring Flash Food Watches for Arizona and New Mexico

The Southwest’s wet season will help provide relief for a yearlong drought.

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Monsoon rains bring relief to the parched Southwest, but with dangerous flash floods.

Monsoon rains led to flooding near Flagstaff, Ariz., last week.Credit…Jake Bacon/Arizona Daily Sun, via Associated Press

July 22, 2021, 12:39 p.m. ET

Monsoon season in the Southwestern United States could provide relief to parts of the region that are desperate for any kind of precipitation, but life-threatening flash floods and lightning are also part of the deal.

Like much of the West, Arizona, New Mexico and western Texas are battling a yearlong drought. Monsoon season generally starts in those places in June and runs through September.

Last year, though, the monsoon didn’t bring much rain. But this year has already seen a dramatic difference — a 200 percent increase in precipitation over the last two months in parts of the Southwest.

“Too much of anything is always a bad thing,” said Dave Lawrence, a National Weather Service meteorologist who covers the Western United States.

With heavy thunderstorms in the forecast through the weekend, flash flood watches were issued Thursday, lasting through Saturday, for central and eastern Arizona, as well as western New Mexico and southwest Colorado — where last week a torrent of water surged through parts of the Grand Canyon, leaving one camper dead.

“We’re most concerned about areas that have been burned by wildfires this year,” said Mark O’ Malley, a meteorologist for the National Weather Service’s branch in Phoenix. “Those areas will be particularly susceptible to flash flooding from the heavy rainfall.”

But despite the risks, meteorologists said the Southwest’s wet season still presents a welcome return to normalcy, particularly as the West battles a punishingly dry summer.

“The monsoon season looks more normal,” Mr. Lawrence said. “If there is such a thing as normal for weather — which there isn’t.”

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