…Arizona’s Most Notable Storms…
Over the years, there have been many significant
storms that have affected Arizona. Due to a very small population base, the
details of storms affecting Arizona during the first half of
the 20th century are sketchy at best, and the following list is
largely limited to events that have occurred since 1960.
In early 1916 the flow on the Gila River area at Yuma is estimated to have
reached 200000 cubic feet per second; a record which probably will never be
broken as reservoirs on the Gila, Salt, and Verde rivers now greatly reduce
the flow at Yuma...even during the most
serious flooding. The damage in
today’s dollars exceeds 4.2 million, and while small by today’s standards,
the population of the state.
September 25 through 27 1962...The remains of
Tropical Storm Claudia causes severe flash flooding in and around Tucson. Up to seven inches of rain falls in the
desert just west of Tucson near the Arizona Sonora Desert Museum. Flood waters inundate Marana and Sells.
August 27…A tornado hit the San Xavier Mission
Village west of Tucson. Two deaths and 9 injuries were
reported. Four homes were destroyed.
Winter Rain and Snow…
December 1965...heavy rainfall and melting snow
forces a release of water into the Salt River. All roads across the Salt River in metro Phoenix are washed out...and all
bridges at least partially damaged. Monthly precipitation exceeds 12 inches
at several mountain stations.
1967…Storm of the Century…86
inches of Snow at Flagstaff…
12-20 1967...A huge snow storm paralyzes northern Arizona...and brings snow to
much of the state. In reality, it is
two storms, with the second following closely on the heels of the first. However, most perceive it to be one
storm. During these nine days...86.0
inches of snow falls at Flagstaff. At Winslow...where
average annual snowfall is 11.2 inches...39.6 inches of snow is
reported. On December 14, a state
record 38.0 inches falls in 24 hours at the Heber Ranger Station. Snowfall totals over the rim country
include 102.7 inches at Hawley Lake, 99 inches at Greer, 91.5 inches at the
Heber Ranger Station, 87.3 inches at Crown King, 77.0 inches at Payson, 46.0
inches at Prescott, 35.2 inches at Sedona, and 31.0 inches at the south rim
of the Grand Canyon. The Navajo nation is extremely hard
hit...as two to three feet of snow falls across the reservation. Window Rock measures 33.5 inches. People on the reservation are instructed to
use ashes from their stoves and fireplaces to write distress signals in the
snow...that could be spotted from the air. Eight people die of exposure.
Southern Arizona does not escape...as
measurable snow even falls on the lowest deserts. Amounts include 84.0 inches on Mount Lemmon...27.5 inches at Miami...17.7 inches at
Wilcox...11.0 inches at Safford...5.0 inches at Wickenburg...3.8 inches at Douglas...3.0 inches at Ajo...and 1.6 inches at Tucson. And, perhaps the most surprising report of
all, 2.5 inches at Gila Bend.
Labor Day Storm of 1970 -Tropical Storm Norma…
September 4 and 5 1970...The Labor Day storm of
1970. The remains of tropical storm
Norma bring severe flooding to Arizona...and becomes
the deadliest storm in Arizona history. There are 23
deaths in central Arizona...including 14 from
flash flooding on Tonto Creek in the vicinity of
Kohl’s Ranch. the Total rainfall at
Workman Creek...about 30 miles north of Globe in the Sierra Ancha mountains...is 11.92 inches...with 11.40 inches
falling in 24 hours. Other rainfall
amounts include 9.09 at Upper Parker Creek...8.74 at Mount Lemmon...8.44 at
Sunflower...8.08 at Kitt Peak...7.12 at the Tonto Creek Fish Hatchery...and 7.01 inches at Crown
7 1971...The temperature at Hawley Lake drops to 40 below zero
establishing a state record low.
August 30…an F-1 tornado touched down south of Tempe and moved north into the
city. Eye witnesses reported what
appeared to by a huge dust devil reaching into the clouds before the tornado
struck. An estimated 100 homes were
damaged…with most of the damage being to roofs, windows, and block walls. Very heavy rain and hail accompanied the
tornado, and 41 minor injuries were reported due to flying glass. Roof damage to the McClintock High School gymnasium allowed water
to pour onto the gymnasium floor causing severe damage.
1972…Phoenix’s Worst Flash Flood…
1972...Severe flash flooding occurs in metro Phoenix. Three to five inches of rain falls over
much of the north half of the Phoenix metro area. Flood waters
inundate hundreds of homes in Phoenix and Scottsdale. This is particularly notable because normal
June rainfall in Phoenix is only 0.13 of an inch.
October 4 through 7 1972...The remains of Hurricane
Joanne brings heavy rain and flooding to much of the state. It is the first “documented” time that a
tropical storm reaches Arizona with its cyclonic
circulation intact. Heavy rains fall
over much of the state with severe flooding in the Clifton...Duncan...and Safford
On September 10 and 11 the remains of Hurricane
Kathleen move across Baja and into southern California near El Centro. With its circulation
still intact...tropical storm force winds produce considerable damage in Yuma. Sustained winds exceed 50 mph, and gust as
high as 76 mph in Yuma. One man is killed as a 75 foot palm tree
crashes onto his mobile home. Severe flooding occurs in Mohave county. Residual moisture brings more severe
thunderstorms to the state on September 24 and 25. The Tucson area is particularly
hard hit with flash flooding and hail as large as golf balls. Hail covers the
ground to a depth of 5 inches on Mount Lemmon.
October 4 through 7 1977...the remains of Hurricane
Heather produces heavy rain and major flooding over extreme southern Arizona. 8.30 inches of rain falls at Nogales...with as much as 14 inches
in the surrounding mountains.
Following on the heels of significant flooding in the spring of
1978...widespread heavy rainfall from December 16 through 20...causes some of
the costliest and widespread flooding in Arizona history. Ten people die and thousands are left
homeless. Ten Arizona counties are declared
federal disaster areas. The combined damage total from the two floods in
today’s dollars exceeds 450 million.
Flooding in Central Arizona…
February 13 through 22 1980...Record
discharges...which are later broken in 1993...are recorded in the Phoenix metro area on the
Salt...Verde...Agua Fria...and Gila Rivers...as well as on Oak Creek in north central Arizona. The Phoenix metro area is almost cut
in half as only two bridges remain open over the Salt River. It takes hours for
people to move between Phoenix and the East Valley using either the Mill Avenue or Central Avenue Bridges. Even the interstate 10 bridge is closed for
fear it has been damaged. Precipitation during this period at Crown King in
the Bradshaw Mountains was 16.63 inches.
1983…Colorado River Floods…
Spring and summer 1983...Heavy rain and rapid snow melt
in the Upper Colorado basin north of Arizona...produces severe flooding along
the Colorado River from Bullhead City to Yuma.
Octave and Autumn Floods…
September 28 through October
7 1983...Tropical storm remains...including those from Hurricane Octave...
cause heavy rain over Arizona during a 10 day
period. Southeast Arizona...and Yavapai and Mohave
counties are particularly hard hit. Severe flooding occurs in Tucson...Clifton...and Safford. Fourteen
deaths and 975 injuries are attributed to the flooding. At least 10000 Arizonans are left
temporarily homeless. Damage in today’s dollars is estimated at 370 million.
time Record High in Phoenix…
1990...the temperature at Phoenix climbs to an all time
record 122. Sky Harbor Airport is forced to shut down
for several hours.
January...February...and March 1993...The winter
floods during the first three months of 1993 cause extensive damage to
property and crops. Record flows are
established on at least 17 streams in Arizona including the Salt and Verde Rivers...and Oak Creek. The flooding in Arizona is extensively covered
by the national media...only to be overshadowed by the Mississippi river flooding later in the
summer. The damage total for the event
in today’s dollars exceeds 250 million.
1994...The temperature at Lake Havasu City climbs to 128,
establishing a state record high.
1996…Phoenix Severe Thunderstorm $160 Million Damage, Record Wind Speed…
14 1996...A severe thunderstorm, and its accompanying downburst, hits the
northwest portion of the Phoenix Metro area ripping off tile roofs, and
causing $160 million in damage. An Arizona record wind gust of 115
mph is recorded at the Deer Valley Airport. A few locations go without power for
1997…Antelope Canyon Flash Flood
12 1997...The Antelope Canyon flash flood.
A distant thunderstorm produces a flash flood in a slot canyon near Lake Powell. Eleven hikers are swept to their
deaths. Since the hikers were tourists
from Europe...the story makes international news. A camera recovered after the event reveals
a 50 to 80 foot wall of water sweeping through the canyon.
September 25 and 26 1997...the remains of hurricane
Nora moves up the Colorado river. The center
of the storm passes directly over Yuma...where winds gust as
high as 54 mph. Significant flooding
occurs across western Arizona. 11.97 inches of rain
falls in 24 hours on top of Harquahala Mountain...breaking the 24 hour
record of 11.40 inches set at Workman Creek in the 1970 Labor Day Storm. 3.59 inches of rain falls at the Yuma Airport. The average “annual” rainfall in Yuma is