From a safe distance, Phoenix residents enjoy a good monsoon. Whether you’re a native of Arizona or you’re new in town, the phenomenon brings excitement and awe to all. The monsoon begins as a wind creates a wall of dust that seemingly swallows up the valley from east to west. Sometimes this wall of dust is followed by violent showers of rain; veiny bolts of lightning crawl across the night sky with the boom of wall-shaking thunder not far behind.
Monsoons can range from minor to severe, damaging anything in its path. Power is lost, streets flooded, and debris takes flight. Driving in these conditions can be downright frightening. Arriving at your destination safely is most important. Follow our tips to stay safe while driving in a monsoon.
What Is a Monsoon?
In essence, the monsoon is a succession of wide-ranging wind shifts transporting moist tropical air to dry, arid locations in the southwestern region of the United States.
When Is Monsoon Season?
Prior to 2008, monsoon season was thought to begin when three consecutive days of a 55 degree or higher dew point were reached. However, in 2008 The National Weather Service revised this decree and officially established monsoon season dates from June 15th to September 30th.
What Do I Do If I’m Driving and There’s a Dust Storm?
The dust storm that often precedes the storm makes seeing the road ahead extremely difficult. In some areas of the state, specifically Interstate 10 between Phoenix and Tucson, visibility of the road and cars ahead is exceedingly poor.
- If you find yourself confronted by a dust storm, begin slowing down and pull over. Do not wait until the visibility decreases significantly. Pull over as soon as you are able, exiting the highway whenever possible.
- Avoid stopping in the traveling lane or emergency shoulder. Completely pull your vehicle off the paved area of the road.
- Put your car in park, turn off all lights, apply the emergency brake, and take your foot off the brake. This prevents other vehicles from approaching behind and using your lights as a guide–which may cause them to collide into your parked vehicle.
- Stay in your vehicle and wait for the storm to pass. Do not attempt to get out of your vehicle. Dust from the storm can actually make you sick causing respiratory problems and eye irritations.
How Can I Be Safe Driving On the Road During a Monsoon?
Download weather apps, watch the news, and enable emergency weather alerts on your phone to be aware of any upcoming storms. Whenever possible, avoid driving during monsoon storms. If you are already driving when a storm hits, and visibility is low, turn on your headlights and slow your vehicle down. For more tips, follow our Dos and Don’ts of driving during a monsoon.
- Stay calm. Drive safely, giving yourself extra room and enough distance to stop if necessary.
- Be prepared. Ensure your phone is charged, you have an emergency kit on hand, and extra water.
- Turn on your lights. Your lights make it easier for other vehicles to see you on the road.
- When rain falls, roads become slick from the water and oil residue from vehicles. Slick roads and water may cause your tires to lose traction to the road’s surface and hydroplane at certain speeds. Slow down.
- Watch for fast moving vehicles that can splash up blinding sheets of water that shroud your car momentarily blinding your view.
- Call for help if your vehicle has stalled in water. Climb up to the roof of the car and dial 9-1-1. If the water is still and low enough, you may be able to safely wade through to higher ground. Take caution and beware of debris, rocks, and other obstacles that could harm you. If you’re not sure how deep the water is or if there is even a mild current, do not attempt to wade through the water and instead wait for help to arrive.
- Check your tires regularly for condition, pressure, and tread. A blowout during a monsoon storm could end in tragedy. Ensure all tires are inflated to the manufacturer’s specified recommendation.
- Replace your windshield wipers every six months. The heat and dry air can quickly destroy rubber areas of wipers. The most ideal time to replace wipers is in the Spring and Fall seasons.
- Follow all posted cautionary signs and speed limits.
- Exercise extra caution while driving through a night monsoon. The road may be more difficult to see and paying particularly close attention is imperative.
- Know the rules of the road. Driving in adverse conditions can cause a multitude of changes on the road including traffic signals not working, road closures, and other abnormalities. If a light is out, treat it as a four-way stop.
- Drive if you don’t have to. No errand is more important than your safety.
- Drive through large puddles on the side of the road. Water may be deeper than it appears. If you are unable to get over, safely reduce your speed, and proceed with caution.
- Enter areas that are flooded. “Do Not Enter When Flooded” signs are placed in certain areas for good reason. Ignoring warnings and barriers can be a risk to your safety and may earn you a traffic violation.
- Enter washes. Flash floods occur without warning and can quickly sweep a vehicle away. A vehicle can lose control in as little as 6-inches of water.
- Park your vehicle near or under a tree or utility pole. High winds can uproot trees and knock large objects down.
- Exit your car if electrical lines fall on your vehicle. Stay in your vehicle until emergency crews arrive and give you the go-ahead.
By following our safety tips for driving during a monsoon, you can be more prepared the next time a storm rolls into the valley. You may even experience the excitement and beauty that a monsoon, unique to Arizona, brings.