Pop-up storms douse Phoenix metro area; lightning sparks tree fire

Posted: Updated:
Near Chandler and Kyrene By Catherine Holland Near Chandler and Kyrene By Catherine Holland
By Catherine Holland By Catherine Holland
By Catherine Holland By Catherine Holland
By Catherine Holland By Catherine Holland
Peoria rain By Catherine Holland Peoria rain By Catherine Holland

VALLEYWIDE -- Storms popped up all over the Phoenix metro area Thursday morning, dousing different parts of the Valley in turn and making for a soggy morning commute.

While the storms brought some lightning and thunder, they mostly carried steady scattered showers, which ranged from a few drops to relatively heavy at times.

On the southbound SR-51, the rain was so heavy at several points that visibility was reduced to a single car length. The situation was similar on several other slick Valley freeways.

With 1.38 inches of rain, Tempe was without a doubt the hardest hit area, although almost everywhere saw a little something. Almost an inch of rain -- 0.75 inch, to be exact --  was measured at the airport. It was enough to bring us up to above-normal rainfall levels for this time of year, 3TV meteorologist April Warnecke said. As of Thursday morning, we've had 4.38 inches of rain, which is about 0.4 inch above average.

The National Weather Service issued one alert  in connection with Thursday's morning's weather, as well as an airport weather warning because of lightning within a 10-mile radius the area.

"We're getting quite a lightning show up here," Tammy Rose reported from Chopper 3 just after 7 a.m.

That airport weather warning triggered a short  ground stop at Sky Harbor International Airport. Flights were being allowed to land, but nothing was taking off. The delay for departures only lasted about 10 minutes.

While that short ground stop was in effect, lightning struck a palm tree and sparked a fire in the area of 40th Street and Monte Vista Road. Firefighters kept the flames from spreading and had things under control quickly.

Neighbors told 3TV's Javier Soto that they heard a loud crash of thunder and then saw a bright flash of light. They went outside and spotted the burning tree. Lightning hit an electrical line in the same area earlier this week.

Damage from the fire was minimal and no injuries were reported.

Mother Nature certainly kept Warnecke on her toes all morning. Warnecke originally forecast a high of 103 degrees for Thursday, but later dropped that to 99, saying that the mercury might even top out in the mid-90s, depending on how long the rain sticks around.

"Because of this rain this morning, trying to forecast a high temperature for today is probably the toughest thing we're going to do today," she said. "The longer these clouds stick around this morning, the less likely we are to even make it to the upper-90s."

The rain seemed to be winding down and moving away from the Valley by about 8 a.m., and nothing was showing up on the radar behind those storms.

Chances of scattered showers and storms will remain in the forecast throughout the day and into the evening and overnight hours.

Warnecke said we can expect more of the same Friday.

"It looks like our most active days across Arizona and the Valley are going to be today and tomorrow," she said, explaining that slight chance of storms will linger through the weekend.