In Arizona, New Mexico and southwest Texas, it’s Monsoon Season with a whole list of weather-related threats.
First on the list, HEAT is deadly, causing on average, dozens of fatalities in Arizona every year. Thunderstorm threats include dangerous lightning, high winds and flooding rains. Dust storms and wildfires add to the dangers and all together, monsoon threats account for an average of 10 deaths, 60 injuries and tens of millions of dollars in property damage and losses every season.
As with all natural threats and disasters, it’s important to follow a few steps to be better prepared and safer! Make sure you have multiple ways to get warnings. Put together emergency supplies, including water, easy to prepare foods, batteries, flashlights, cellphone chargers, a first aid kit and some cash. Also, keep in mind that if power is out for multiple days, you might need emergency backup power, if you have specific life-support or medical equipment needs.
When it comes to the individual threats, you need a plan for dealing with them. If you’re in a flood zone, know how you’ll evacuate if told to do so. Learn where the nearest high ground is at home and work and be ready to move quickly when warnings are issued. Get flood insurance, if you don’t already have it! And of course, if you encounter water covering low-lying areas and over roads, don’t walk or drive into it! Turn around, don’t drown! And if you’re visiting a flash flood prone area, don’t camp or park in low-lying spots! Flash floods can happen very quickly, without warning and often occur miles from where the heaviest rains fall.
When thunderstorms move in heed all warnings and remember, when thunder roars, go indoors. Lightning can strike 15 miles from a storm.
And for one of the most underrated weather related killers in Arizona, you should be prepared for dust storms or haboobs, as they’re called in the Southwest! Thunderstorm winds can lift giant clouds of dust and reduce visibility to near zero in just seconds. This can cause deadly, multi-vehicle accidents on roads. For drivers, the catchy safety phrase to remember for dust storms, just like heavy fog, is PULL ASIDE, STAY ALIVE!
If a dust storm impacts you and you can’t avoid driving into it, pull off the road as far as you safely can. Turn off your headlights and taillights. Put your vehicle in “PARK,” put on your parking brake and keep your foot off the brake. This can help prevent other drivers from seeing your tail lights and thinking you’re in the roadway. This could help avoid them crashing into you from behind.
Typically, dust storms only last from a few minutes, to an hour at most, so just stay where you are until the haboob passes.
Knowing the hazards, being prepared and ready to act can keep you and your family safer during this Monsoon Season in the Southwest.
For WeatherNation – John Van Pelt.