PHOENIX (3TV/CBS 5) - What does this record rainfall mean for drought conditions and wildfires in Arizona? We caught up with the state climatologist today to find out.
Days of rain can be exciting for Arizonans, but as we've already seen in Flagstaff it can lead to some serious flooding problems. "It's challenging when we get a lot of precipitation in a very short period of time," said state climatologist at ASU Erin Saffell. "That's the nature of our thunderstorms in summer."
She says when we look at coming out of long-term drought conditions, we're going to need several wet years in a row. "Drought is a long-term event and so we have been in drought for over 20 years here in Arizona and we've had wetter years."
That includes in 2006 when experts saw precipitation levels very similar to what we've had this month. When Arizona gets a lot of rain in a short amount of time, there's nowhere for that water to go except on the surface. "It doesn't go into our soil and recharge our aquifers for example," Saffell said. "It will help the soil moisture a little bit, but for the most part the soil is going to be full of water and won't be able to carry any more."
At one point there were more than 20 named wildfires burning in Arizona. Saffell hopes the rain will bring enough moisture to soil and plants and to tamp down the threat of more.
She tells Arizona's Family there is a committee that looks at drought conditions at the end of every month. They talk about what's going on in the ecosystem, precipitation and will see if July's rain will allow them to decrease drought levels.