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Monsoons remain ‘unusually persistent’ in Flagstaff, volunteers needed to assist flood mitigation

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The 2022 monsoon season in northern Arizona has proved tireless as high likelihoods of rain continue to persist through the coming weeks. With the rain comes a steady risk of post-fire flooding in neighborhoods beneath fire-impacted watersheds in and around Flagstaff.

Amidst those ongoing concerns, the city has put out a reminder that volunteers can help produce sandbags for flood mitigation “anytime during daylight hours” by visiting self-fill sandbag stations.

For over a month, the Flagstaff forecast has been characterized by near-daily chances of precipitation ranging between 30% to 90%. National Weather Service meteorologist-in-charge Brian Klimowski said the pattern has been “unusually persistent,” and explained by the stability of high-pressure systems that draw monsoon moisture into northern Arizona.

“It’s not uncommon during the monsoon that we see troughs come in and sweep away the high pressure, sweep away the moisture for a couple days. We call that a monsoon break,” Klimowski said. “We haven't had too many monsoon breaks this year.”

The persistence of the monsoon has resulted in rainfall measurements ranging from “10% above normal to well over 20% above normal” in “virtually every location” across northern Arizona, Klimowski said.

While above average precipitation will “pick away” at the drought conditions in the region, Klimowski said their impact is not as influential as melting snowpack or broader winter storms. Still, the rain counts for something.

“The above normal monsoon we've had is improving our drought conditions,” Klimowski said. “Albeit slowly at this time.”

The rain has certainly counted for a surplus of stress in Flagstaff neighborhoods that reside in the path of post-fire floods, some of which have taken to flooding every few days. Following public outcry for the need of emergency assistance, the City of Flagstaff encouraged volunteers to visit self-fill sandbag stations to help produce sandbags for flood mitigation. There are currently two city-sponsored sites, one at Thorpe Park and another at the Schultz Creek Trailhead, which are open and looking for volunteers seven days a week.

“Completed sandbags can be left at the sites, where they can then be picked up by residents impacted by flooding,” the city said in a recent press release. Helping to pre-fill sandbags “saves flood-impacted residents time and energy,” said city public affairs director Sarah Langley.

Coconino County also maintains an open call for volunteers, and encourages interested parties to sign up via the United Way of Northern Arizona. It’s been estimated that more than a million sandbags are needed across the county.

Rain shows no sign of slowing in the coming weeks, with high chances of precipitation and flood watches dominating the forecast. Even though the monsoon season got an early start, there is no indication that it will have an early finish, Klimowski said. Current appearances suggest that the season will wane in early to mid-September.

“We don't see the back end of the monsoon yet,” Klimowski said.

The more immediate forecast calls for at least a 40% chance of precipitation each day for the next week, with the likelihood increasing heading into the weekend. High temperatures will remain in the low 70s for most of that span.

For more information on post-fire flooding, visit www.flagstaff.az.gov/4767/Pipeline-Fire-West-Flood-Area or www.coconino.az.gov/2926/SchultzPipeline-Flood-Area.

To volunteer through the United Way of Northern Arizona, visit uwna.volunteerhub.com.

Sean Golightly can be reached at sgolightly@azdailysun.com.
 
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