Tropical storms that originate in the Pacific in the fall historically create the most damage. Powerful cyclones brew in the Pacific Ocean and push inland. Often influenced by El Nino forces, the storms gain steam over the Baja Peninsula and whip even more energy from the warm waters of the Gulf of California.
In October 1983 Tropical Storm Octave was cast far into Arizona. Pounding rain accumulated in raging torrents and teamed up with high winds to devastate infrastructures from Tucson to Phoenix. Roads, bridges, phone lines and electric lines were washed away and 10,000 people were displaced from their homes.
More recently in 1997 the remnants of Category 4 Hurricane Nora brought tropical storm force winds, torrential rain and flooding far into the Southwest, eventually dissipating near the Arizona Nevada border. Just under 12 inches of rain fell on the Valley. The National Weather Service office in Tucson states that eight tropical storms or depressions have crossed land to Arizona since 1965.
Plus you never know what might come in with the monsoons. This past July a storm howling with 66 mph winds gushed five inches of rain on Anthem in less than 90 minutes, uprooting trees, sending outdoor furniture flying and flooding neighborhoods and roads. And who will forget our moment in the national weather spotlight courtesy of the giant dust storm of July 2011? One hundred miles across and one and a half miles high, the monstrous haboob dropped 40,000 tons of sand and dust on us, a towering wall of grit carried on a silent wind.
So although it’s true that we are blessed with daily sunshine, we know in our bones that even here we will one day find ourselves vulnerable to the forces of nature.