Faced with record heat, people across Southwest await delayed monsoon rains

In this file photo, a storm advances, as seen from Hurricane, Utah, July 13, 2018 | Photo courtesy of Danielle Nicole, St. George News

FLAGSTAFF, Ariz. (AP) — Across the Southwest, people are wondering when seasonal rainstorms will make their way through the region.

Dry mud cracks are apparent along the receding edge of the Great Salt Lake near Antelope Island, Utah, Aug. 26, 2019 | Associated Press photo by Rick Bowmer, St. George News

The monsoon season, characterized by a shift in wind patterns and moisture being pulled in from the tropical coast of Mexico, arrives like clockwork in mid-June and runs through September. Usually it means rain, but not much has fallen this summer, and the Southwest is parched.

The Flagstaff airport usually logs nearly 5.5 inches of rain by now but has only seen one-fifth of that — the driest in 120 years. Las Vegas has barely recorded any rain. The city of St. George had zero rain in July and August — far from the average 1.25 inches.

At the same time, the region is recording record-high temperatures. The National Weather Service issued heat watches and warnings for parts of Utah, Nevada and Arizona this week, with some places offering cooling stations for the homeless. Pet owners have been warned their furry friends’ paws suffer on hot sidewalks.

The dryness stretching across the Four Corners region has hydrologists worried, although many places are still above-normal for precipitation because of a wet winter.

Intense heat ripples obscure a farmer turning his field in Casa Blanca, Ariz., Aug. 27, 2019 | Associated Press photo by Matt York, St. George News

“I’ve heard the joke calling it the ‘nonsoon,’ and that’s really what we’re seeing,” said Royce Fontenot, a senior hydrologist with the weather service in Albuquerque, New Mexico.

Forecasters say some relief could come this week, with clouds beginning to build Tuesday and thunder rumbling over some spots.

“It’s not unheard of to have a wetter September, so it’s certainly possible,” said National Weather Service meteorologist Jaret Rogers.

The summer rains usually account for the biggest percentage of moisture the desert regions get in a year. Without the rain, the threat of wildfires lingers, lake levels decline and outdoor plants suffer.

Written by FELICIA FONSECA, Associated Press. AP writers Susan Montoya Bryan in Albuquerque, New Mexico, and Michelle Price in Las Vegas contributed to this story.

Copyright 2019 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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