PHOENIX (3TV/CBS 5) -- Thursday is the final day of Monsoon 2021, and after the hottest summer on record scorched the Valley of the Sun last year, this season brought much needed relief to Arizona.
According to Jaret Rogers, a meteorologist from the National Weather Service office in Phoenix, incredible rains helped ease a disastrous drought.
"Over 80 percent of the state was in the worst two drought categories before the monsoon, extreme and exceptional drought, and now that number is closer to 14 percent, so a tremendous improvement," said Rogers.
Looking at data from NWS, Tucson picked up more than a foot of rain this season, which is more than double what's considered normal. Flagstaff received just over 10 inches of rain, which is roughly three inches above average.
The official reporting station at Phoenix Sky Harbor received 4.20 inches so far, which is almost two inches more than normal, making this the 26th wettest monsoon, dating back to 1896.
"If you look across the entire Valley, we actually received more than that, over five inches, and we had the wettest July and August since we've been tracking the Valley-wide rain gauges in 1990," said Rogers. "So overall, a very wet year, certainly much more active than the past two years that we've seen."
No long-lasting heat in the Valley
With all that moisture, Arizona did not experience the long-lasting, block-buster heatwaves, as experienced in 2020.
Since the official start of the monsoon, which was June 15th, September 30th marks the 28th day with highs below 100 degrees in Phoenix. Compare that with just six days last year.
The number of days with highs at 110 degrees or greater this year is only 22, which is a huge contrast to the 53 days logged in 2020. That was a record high number.
Deadly and Destructive Season
Unfortunately, the beneficial rains also created a seriously deadly threat of flash flooding.
"Especially across the burn areas, near Flagstaff, up in Globe and in Southeast Arizona as well. Statewide, we've actually seen 10 confirmed deaths from flash flooding this year so far, so that's an unfortunate side effect of all the rain that we've been getting," said Rogers. "The National Weather Service has issued, I believe, more flash flood warnings in Arizona than any other state in the country this year, so it's been very active."
Taylor Laundry knows it all too well. "It came on so fast it was kind of, you know, we could have probably thought to walk into the water for a second and then the next thing you know, it could of swept us all away," she said on Jul. 14. She had just woken up to see her neighbor's Prius get swept down the street as thunderstorm pounded near the Museum Burn Scar for the second day in a row. Major storms also hit on Aug. 17.
In all, dozens of homes were damage, an elementary school was flooded out and several roads were closed, in the very place where residents are still dealing with the aftermath of 2019's wildfire.
But for those in the small community of Gila Bend, they had no idea this year would be one for the history books.
On Aug. 13 forecasts suggested a strong chance for intense thunderstorms overnight. Flash Flood Warnings hit the area, but no one expected what would come next. With rainfall rates of nearly 10 inches per hour, the region experienced a thousand-year flood, sending floodwaters cascading through a town of 2,000 people.
By Saturday morning, the Maricopa County Sheriff's Office had rescued more than 30 people off rooftops. At least 140 homes were declared unlivable due to severe damage, and a railroad bridge was washed away. It hit the community especially hard when two people died. One person was swept downstream, another died by trying to save a stranded driver out on the road.
Another hard-hit area during the monsoon was the Globe-Miami area. Serious flooding especially created devastation near the Telegraph Fire Burn Scar. flooded homes and vehicles were buried in thick, deep mud. It even plugged up the city's drainage system. The community ultimately came together for a clean up party at City Hall.
The fallout from all the rain could be an increased fire danger. The precipitation produced a lot of growth of grasses and brush across Arizona lands, and once that dries out next spring and summer, it will all become potential fuel for wildfire season.
Looking ahead to this winter, it looks like a weak La Niña climate pattern will develop.
"It doesn't mean we're not going to get any rain at all. It just means that we may not see as many storm systems come through the Southwest that bring us rain," said Rogers.