Watching an Arizona monsoon storm from the safety of your own home can be an awe-inspiring experience, but if you're caught outdoors during one, here are some safety tips:
- If you see a sign that says "Do Not Cross When Flooded," take it seriously. If you are caught in a wash, try to climb out on the roof of your vehicle and wait for help. Use your cell phone, if available, to call 911.
- If you're driving when it's raining, slow down. Remember that the beginning of rain storms in the area are the most dangerous times since that's when oils and other automotive fluids are being washed off the roads causing unusually slick conditions.
- If your visibility is impeded by heavy rain or blowing dust, most people will reduce their speed, but keep driving straight. Don't change lanes unless absolutely necessary. Area drivers will often use their emergency blinkers (hazard lights) during the storm because blinking lights are easier to see. If you don't want to drive in the storm, slowly pull off to the side of the road as far to the right as possible, turn off your car, turn off your lights, and keep your foot off the brake pedal. Otherwise, drivers may come up quickly behind you assuming that you're still in motion.
- To avoid being struck by lightning stay away from open fields, high land, trees, poles, other tall objects, standing bodies of water including swimming pools, and metal objects including golf clubs and lawn chairs.
If you're home during the Arizona monsoon storms, there are still some things you can do to stay safe and enjoy the natural light and sound show:
- Turn off all unnecessary electrical equipment during storms to decrease the draw on power companies. This is a prime time for power outages in the area.
- Because of the risk of power failure, keep batteries, a working batter-powered radio or television, flashlights, and candles handy. If the power goes out, remember to keep lit candles out of direct drafts.
- Stay off the phone. Even cordless phones can cause a shock in cases of nearby lightning strikes. Use cellular phones for emergencies only.
- Stay away from plumbing fixtures including showers, baths, and sinks. Lightning can travel through metal pipes.
- Keep your distance from windows as high winds can blow heavy debris.
While we spend most of the year in dry, warm weather, the Arizona monsoon offers a spectacular exception to that rule. It's that time of year when you won't hear area residents using the oft-used phrase "but, it's a dry heat".
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