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Sunny Seattle and soaked Southwest? Experts say counterintuitive weather not unusual


It has been wet in Arizona this year, but not-record breaking
It has been wet in Arizona this year, but not-record breaking

The Canadian Press

September 13, 2012 — Heavy rains and flooding in the Southwest? A near-record dry streak in Seattle? The seemingly counterintuitive weather is not necessarily unusual for this time of year, says experts.

In the Pacific Northwest, high temperatures and bone-dry terrain have made for dangerous fire conditions this year
In the Pacific Northwest, high temperatures and bone-dry terrain have made for dangerous fire conditions this year

In the Pacific Northwest, high temperatures and bone-dry terrain have made for dangerous fire conditions this year, particularly in Washington state.

More than 1,600 firefighters laboured Wednesday on seven large fire complexes in Eastern Washington that were fanned by high winds.

Meanwhile, intense summer thunderstorms flooded homes and streets in the Las Vegas area, inundated mobile home parks in Southern California, stranded some Navajo Nation residents in Arizona, and broke a dike in southern Utah, leading to evacuations.

The seemingly counter-intuitive conditions may leave some residents reeling, but they're par for the course this time of year, experts say.

Arizona, for example, has seen much flooding in recent months, with normally dry washes rushing like rivers in parts of the state. Some residents might have the impression that this summer has been extremely wet because of the frequency of rain that they can see from their homes, said J.J. Broston, a science and operations officer for the National Weather Service in Tucson.

But rain falls more diffusely across a region and this year has been wet, but not record-breaking, he said.

"For the most part, people are looking at rainfall from their own individual perspectives, and if it rains at their homes, they think it has been a wet monsoon (season)," Broston said. "From the Weather Service's perspective, we are looking at a larger area."

Rainfall levels in Arizona this monsoon season, which runs from June 15 through Sept. 30, have been just above average.

While it's been drier than usual in the Pacific Northwest, experts say the rain should come back as September progresses.


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