Arizona's Wildest Weather Events

Arizona’s Wildest Weather Events

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Arizona is a land of extreme beauty, but alongside our gorgeous landscape comes weather that can run to dangerous extremes of its own. From fiery heat waves to sudden flash floods, Arizona weather has its share of unpredictability. Here are just a few of the notable weather events from Arizona’s history.

Hot, Hot Heat

When it comes to heat, it’s hard to surprise the residents of Phoenix. Heat in Arizona is just a fact of life. Despite the warm feelings, some hot spells stand out in the books either for record-breaking heat or long spells of unrelenting high temperatures.

*July 2005

One of the most brutal heat waves in recent times was a deadly heatwave that struck the Phoenix area in 2005. Brutal temperatures frequently touched 110° and never relented below 90°. During this time, the heat was attributed to multiple deaths, having its biggest impact on the city’s homeless and transient population. The hot weather also caused deaths among the elderly, with more than six older adults found dead in their homes.

*June 26, 1990

Phoenix’s all time high temperature was recorded in the summer of 1990 when the thermometer hit 122° in the peak of the afternoon. While Phoenix summers usually tip over the 100° mark, 122° was hot enough to be a public health hazard, temporarily shutting down the airport and advising citizens to seek shelter from the swelter.

*Longest Drought

Arizona and much of the southwest has experienced long stretches of extreme drought in the past decades. In recent history, Phoenix recorded its longest period of zero rainfall, a whopping 143 days without any measurable rainfall. The period lasted from the autumn of 2005 until early spring 2006.

Water, Water Everywhere

Everyone knows Phoenix for it’s hot dry climate, but many are surprised to learn about the flooding the region has endured. When water does come to the desert, our hard, baked land makes absorption difficult and can lead to sudden flooding.

February 1980

In one of the Phoenix area’s most remembered floods, the Salt River overflowed and severed the city for four days. The floodwater took out two bridges severing the city’s arteries to the Southeast. As flood water subsided, Phoenix got to work on a plan to engineer a deeper and more stable channel for the flow of the Salt River. The Salt was deepened, but it didn’t keep the troublesome river from flooding again a decade later.

October 1983

When we received the remnants of a tropical storm weather pattern in the early 1980s, few could have predicted it would have the effect it did. Rainstorms flooded a bulging Gila river that expanded to more than a mile across at various points. The massive flooding closed interstate highway 10 and forced many people to evacuate their homes. All in all when the damage was wrought, over 800 homes sustained damage in Maricopa and surrounding counties.

January 1993

A flood event often referred to as the Tempe Flood occurred early in 1993 when the Salt River overflowed. Tempe found itself most affected by the water damage, but damage also had an impact across the region. In addition to taking out a bridge, the flood also swept across a landfill, dragging tons of trash into the river’s path along with the flood waters.

September 1970

One of the deadliest flood events in recent Arizona history is the Labor Day flood of 1970 in which a flash flood killed over 20 people camping around the Mogollon Rim. Even campers who fled in their vehicles were no match for raging waters which overtook cars and defenseless campers alike.

Let It Snow?

Although it’s a short drive to breathtaking skiing, Phoenix seldom experiences actual snowfall in city limits. An exception to this rule occurred on January 20, 1933 when Phoenicians were treated to an inch of snowfall covering the ground. Two decades earlier marked a low point for the city – the lowest recorded daytime temperature, a frosty 16° on January 7th, 1913.

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