PHOENIX (3TV/CBS 5) - When it came to the monsoon, 2020 was forgettable. "It would be really hard to have a worse monsoon than last year," said Dan Lenz with the Flood Control District of Maricopa County. He added last year's monsoon fail was on a scale he's never seen before. "When you actually look at all the gauges as a whole, it actually shows over the past five years, we've been about average. Two above, two below and then we've got this outlier from last year. No matter how you look at it, it was really, really dry. It was a failure," said Lenz.
And according to state climatologist Nancy Selover, the monsoon fail was not limited to the Valley. "It failed around the entire state. Basically, things didn't set up to where the circulation pattern was bringing warm, moist air up from Mexico across much of the state," she said. "So we were basically getting a northernly flow and that's a dry flow and it doesn't provide anything to kick of thunderstorms."
But Selover also points out that perhaps the worst part of the missing monsoon was that the wildfire season never ended in Arizona. "It is critical for that and we're concerned this year because last year it never came and the fire season has continued right on through. We had a few rain events in some places of the state and that wasn't enough and now we're moving into the dry period again," she said.
But even in the Valley, the summer rains are important. "Water is probably the most important asset and feature in the desert. We live in the desert so every drop of water counts. When the monsoon doesn't perform well here in the Phoenix area, that's 30-50% of our annual rainfall," said Selover.
It was on July 5, 2011, when the storm piled dust a mile high into the sky and stretched nearly across the entire width of the state.
Flood control's website operates 24/7 and is a good source of real-time monsoon information. "You can tell if the washes are running around your neighborhood. So the data is there to help with actionable outcomes. We're here to protect people from flood around the county," said Lenz.