Driving in the Monsoon
Tips for Drivers
June 15th through September 30th is when weather patterns bring monsoon storms into the Valley of the Sun. Though they are magnificent to behold, these storms can be very dangerous.
Monsoon storms are caused by a change in the weather pattern and in the weather ridge location. The location of the weather ridge is key to where we see storms within the state. The dry winds that normally blow from west and southwest shift to the south and southeast, pulling moisture from the Gulf of California. Add in the Arizona summer heat and you have a recipe for storms.
Before the rain even arrives, dust storms are likely to roll into the Valley. These storms can reduce visibility and make for dangerous driving conditions. If you get caught in a dust storm, do not stop in a travel lane or in the emergency lane.
• Look for a safe place to pull completely off the paved portion of the roadway.
• Put the vehicle in park, set your emergency brake.
• Turn off your headlights and taillights so that other drives will be less likely to assume you are driving on the road and follow your lights.
• Stay in the vehicle with your seatbelts buckled and wait for the storm to pass.
If you are driving during a storm, or even after the storm is over, water levels on a roadway can be deceptive. Don’t risk crossing a flooded wash, even if the water doesn’t look deep. Just 18” of water can carry a vehicle away and 6” of water can knock an adult down.
• Motorists should never drive around barricades, even if the wash shows no water, there could be an anticipation of flooding to happen in the wash. If a person does drive around the barriers, they can be cited under the state’s Stupid Motorist Law.
• If you live in a flood prone area or are camping in a low-lying area, get to higher ground immediately.
Stay alert and up-to-date on weather happenings by signing up for email alerts from the Flood Control District of Maricopa County.