Phoenix area cooled by monsoon rain; flooding reported across Arizona

In Phoenix, scorching heat has been swapped for rain, lightning and flooding thanks to monsoon thunderstorms.

Residents across metro Phoenix woke up Friday to a drenched landscape thanks to overnight rains that were accompanied by crackling thunder and gusty winds.

According to the National Weather Service, 1.01 inch of rain has fallen on Sky Harbor from July 22 to around 6:00 p.m. on July 23, exceeding the 1-inch rainfall total for the 2020 monsoon season.

By evening, flash flooding was reported in New River and parts of the northern metro area that received 2.6 inches (6.6 centimeters) of rain. The National Weather Service issued a flood warning for Maricopa County until Saturday morning near Lake Pleasant and New River Anthem.

Forecasts called for more of the same into the weekend.

Sky Harbor International Airport received just over 1 inch (2.5 centimeters) of rain during the storm, topping the amount of rain during the entire monsoon season last year.

The high temperature for the day was 83 degrees Fahrenheit (28 Celsius) at the airport, well below the average 106 F (41 C) for the date.

Residents reported fallen trees and fencing and filled flood channels. Motorists stopped to marvel at the water roiling in normally dry desert washes in foothills suburbs.

Forecasters warned that areas with burn scars from old wildfires could be at risk for flash flooding.

In more urban areas like Phoenix, there are flood risks on highways, streets and underpasses. Drivers are being advised not to try to cross any flooded path.

One positive is that temperatures around Phoenix are expected to stay below 90 degrees Fahrenheit through the weekend.

Meanwhile, rain and flooding has also walloped southern Arizona. Several trailheads and recreation areas in the Santa Catalina Mountains have been closed due to weather, Pima County officials said in a news release.

The U.S. Forest Service has also shut down several recreation sites in the Coronado National Forest. Hikers are advised to not go on any unnecessary outings because of potentially flooded washes and ravines.

Storm also prompted other rescues in New River

The monsoon storm has also caused flooding elsewhere, including in the New River area of Maricopa County. Video sent into the FOX 10 Newsroom shows one vehicle trapped in several feet of water near 7th Street and Cloud, prompting an MCSO helicopter to take part in rescue efforts.

In the Fig Springs area of the New River, at least two people had to be flown out of their flooded home. Officials with MCSO say they were stuck in their mobile home, after they ended up in a wash.

For area residents, the threat of flooding is nothing new.

"Monsoon season, absolutely. Where we live, it's pretty rural out here, and we’re really used to having these downpours, the flash flooding come through, so for our family, we already had an emergency pack. We already had a go plan in place. We already had our animal carriers together. We were able to evacuate in three minutes from our home,: said Jacqulyn Currey.

Storm left trail of damage in Scottsdale

The impact knocked down trees, fencing, and even power. It has also triggered flash flood warnings in some Phoenix suburbs.

In Scottsdale, city officials reported outages in the city’s Old Town district and South Scottsdale. Crews have been working to restore power and clean up debris. Multiple streets in flood-prone areas have been closed. The damage to McCormick-Stillman Railroad Park was so extensive, the park is now closed until further notice.

"Craziness. Lightning back to back. It looked like something struck the palm tree next to us and transferred to the power lines, and it all went down from there," Mimi Keleta recounted.

In North Scottsdale, about 70 people were inside a Brazilian Grill restaurant when the incident described by Keleta happened. While everyone got out safe, some in the parking lot became trapped.

"There were people sitting in their cars and wires on both sides," said Keleta. "That was a freaky sight to see, just they were smart enough to stay in their car."

At one apartment complex in Scottsdale, winds toppled a carport over, and several unlucky car owners were unable to get to their vehicles.

"My parking is, like, right across the way. I’m just glad that it wasn’t on mine," said Greg Sidarakis.


Valley residents dealing with storm damages, outages

One of the hardest hit areas was at McCormick Ranch in Scottsdale, which is now littered with dozens of downed trees and power poles.

The McCormick-Stillman Railroad Park sustained so much damage on Thursday that it is not closed until further notice.

Customers inside the Fogo de Chao Brazilian Steakhouse near Lincoln Drive and Scottsdale Road say the storm took down power lines while they were eating.

One witness said she saw people trapped inside their cars because live wires were down around their vehicles.

APS crews are working to restore power despite rain, thunder and lightning continuing to batter down the city on Friday.

At one point, 14,000 APS customers were without power. 

Flagstaff braces for more flooding

In Flagstaff, residents are preparing for more flooding as monsoon storms continue to batter the area.

The area has been badly affected by flash flooding, as rain falls on burn scars from the 2019 Museum Fire.

One resident in the area says he has never seen anything like what has unfolded in the past week.

"You started to hear the fence creak a little bit, and see some water running under it, and then all of a sudden we here a big sound as the fence falls, and then we started running into the house," said Charles Driebe.

His neighbors' fences also fell over. Suddenly, three yards became one.

"You start to realize, well this water is nothing to joke with. Whenever you see water acting this way where it's coming straight at you in such a powerful way with force, there is nothing like it. It’s so indescribable," said Driebe.

Driebe's whole yard was flooded. With more storms through the weekend, he and his family have stacked up on sandbags, and that is also the case with others in the neighborhood.

Lucinda Andreani, who is the Incident Commander of the Museum Fire Burn Flooding Event, says in one recent event, water overtopped the barriers placed on one roadway, and crews had to come back in.

"We came back in and added more of a second layer, including the fill that you see behind the first layer barrier as well as sandbags, and then we added another third layer of barrier to capture any water that may over flow this barrier," said Andreani.

The city has already removed 3,600 tons of mud and debris from the streets throughout the city. 

Rain/flood safety tips

The American Red Cross' tips for heavy rain situations and flood safety:

  • Turnaround don’t drown! If you must drive and you encounter a flooded roadway, turn around and go another way.
  • If you are caught on a flooded road and waters are rising rapidly around you, get out of the car quickly and move to higher ground.
  • Tune in to your local radio, NOAA radio, or news channels for the latest updates.
  • If your neighborhood is prone to flooding, be prepared to evacuate quickly.
  • Follow evacuation orders and do not attempt to return until officials say it is safe.
  • If power lines are down, do not step in puddles or standing water.
  • If power is out, use a flashlight. Do not use any open flame as alternate lighting.

Preparing for a severe thunderstorm 

The American Red Cross' tips for preparing for a severe thunderstorm:

  • Put together an emergency kit.
  • Know your community’s evacuation plan.
  • Create a household disaster plan and practice it.
  • Purchase a battery-powered or hand-crank radio
  • Discuss thunderstorm safety with members of your household. Be aware that a thunderstorm could produce flooding.
  • Pick a safe place in your home for household members to gather during a thunderstorm. This should be a place where there are no windows, skylights, or glass doors, which could be broken by strong winds or hail and cause damage or injury.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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