Wednesday, August 10, 2005

Yet another weather post

My wife and I love the monsoons. Coming from the coast of California, it was a completely new weather phenomenon for us. In my 34 years of living in Southern California, I could count on one hand the number of actual thunderstorms I'd been in. When the monsoons hit, thunderstorms are a near-daily occurrence for the better part of three months.

This year's version is turning out to be very, very active. It is also turning out to be deadly. The Republic reports this morning of at least two deaths resulting from yesterday's storms across the valley:

Searchers this morning found the body of a 7-year-old girl swept away by floodwaters Tuesday afternoon near Cave Creek.

Meanwhile, another man was killed trying to cross an overflown wash near I-17 at New River north of Phoenix: In the New River incident, authorities said Wilson was still buckled in his seat belt as firefighters removed his body from his upside-down truck. Two horses were rescued from the trailer.

The river came up very quickly at the low-water crossing, said Capt. Dennis Tyrell, a spokesman for the Daisy Mountain Fire Department. Wilson got out of the truck to examine the flowing river, then decided to cross it anyway, an awful example of what can happen when taking chances with running water, said Sgt. Paul Chagolla, a Maricopa County sheriff's spokesman.

Mr. Wilson is Wayne Wilson, a 65-year old man who was pulling a horse-trailer along the frontage road parallel to I-17. As far as I know, Mr. Wilson was a native- or at least a long-time Arizona resident which makes his decision to cross flowing water even more perplexing.

The case of Marissa Reyes in Cave Creek, NE of town is even sadder. The Reyes family lives on a ranch. The family and at least one ranch hand were caught on the property when a flash flood struck:

She slipped away from a ranch worker's hand as he clung to a tree when a wall of water came through a wash near Seven Springs, a recreational area north of Cave Creek, authorities said.

"The mother, who was still in the house, heard her daughter scream," said Sgt. Kip Rustenburg, a spokeswoman with the Maricopa County Sheriff's Office. "When she looked out the window, she saw her daughter swept out of his grip.

Local radio reports have said that the group caught outside actually withstood the first rush of water that hit them, but that Reyes was swept away when a second wall of water hit the group causing the ranch hand to lose his grip.

Earlier in the week, the National Weather Service had predicted better-than-average chances for rain through the entire week. If that is borne out, we'll set a record:

The National Weather Service said partly sunny weather is expected today with a chance of showers and thunderstorms in the evening. Meteorologist Valerie Meyers said the Valley has experienced scattered rain for 11 consecutive days.

"The ground is very saturated," she said. "Otherwise, we wouldn't have the flooding problems that we've been having." Tuesday also marked the 11th day that the airport measured at least a trace of precipitation or more, which is approaching the record.

In January 1993, the airport recorded a trace or more for 14 consecutive days. During those 14 days, a total of 5.12 inches fell.

UPDATE: The picture here is a photo of Mr. Wilson's pick-up truck and horse-trailer that were swept off the road and down the river bed near New River. This is why you never try to cross flowing water. Ever.

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