The first official day of the monsoon is June 15. The season runs through the summer, ending on Sept. 30. Monsoon means "season" in Arabic, and it signals a seasonal shift in winds and our overall weather pattern.
As high pressure sets up to our east, and low pressure develops to our southwest, moisture is drawn up into Arizona from both the Gulf of California and the Gulf of Mexico. That moisture combines with the intense summer heat and we get thunderstorms.
The monsoon brings everything from dust storms and dry lightning to heavy rain and flash flooding. Occasionally, we even get a tornado or two here in Arizona.
Thanks to El Nino and a wet May, the forecast for this year's monsoon season is more complex than ever.
Safety Tips for Monsoon Season:
Flash flooding is the No.1 cause of death related to thunderstorms. Never drive through flooded roadways or let your children play in washes during periods of heavy rainfall. It takes only about 2 feet of flowing water to float a car and just 6 inches of swiftly flowing water to sweep you off your feet.
Lightning: The second-highest number of casualties related to thunderstorms is from lightning. It is important to remember that lightning can strike several miles away from the storm itself. If a storm is approaching, move inside as soon as possible and stay inside until at least 30 minutes since hearing the last rumble of thunder. If you cannot find shelter, be sure to stay away from tall objects.
Dust: Dust storms are a common occurrence during the monsoon that affect a large number of motorists. If you are caught in a dust storm while driving, pull as far off the roadway as you can, put your car in park, turn off all your lights and take your foot off the brake. After a large dust storm you should also replace your air-conditioning filters and, if driving your car, the air filter.
To report a power outage
Arizona Public Service: 855-688-2437.
Statewide road conditions: 888-411-ROAD.
When the lights go out
Make sure you haven't blown a main fuse or circuit breaker.
Turn off appliances, including TVs, computers, air-conditioners, washers, dryers, dishwashers, ranges and heavy-duty motors, such as pool pumps and water heaters. In some cases, you might want to unplug appliances to avoid a power surge.
Wait at least a minute after the power is restored before turning equipment on.
Don't turn off the freezer or refrigerator. Keep doors closed. Food will remain frozen for 12 hours in a half-full freezer, 24 hours in a full one.
Have these things on hand in case it takes crews longer to restore power than expected:
Cordless pocket fan.
Battery-operated lanterns or flashlights that are easy to find in the dark.
Wall-mounted closet lights. They usually take D batteries and are helpful in a child's room or garage.
Battery-powered radio or TV.
Instructions to open or close an electric garage door manually.
A manual can opener.
Canned goods and dried foods that don't need to be refrigerated. Don't forget pet food.
Backup medical plan for life-support equipment.
Protect your pets
Lightning, thunder and downpours can be frightening to family pets. During a storm, try these tips from the Arizona Humane Society:
Keep pets indoors. If dogs are crate-trained and want to go into the crate, let them. If they don't want to go in, don't force them.
Make sure pets have current identification in case they escape.
Distract pets with toys or play during loud storms.
Don't overprotect. If you fuss because your pet is scared, you will reinforce their fears.
If your pet just can't cope, consider prescription medications, but only under the supervision of a veterinarian.
Yavapai Humane Society: 928-445-2666, www.yavapaihumane.org.