Southwest monsoon rain bringing drought relief – but also dangerous flooding

Monsoon rains in the southwest are causing extreme drought across the region, and parts of Arizona and New Mexico are seeing some of the most significant improvements.
Over the next few days, the risk of monsoons in these states will decrease, the National Weather Service said, focusing instead on the southern parts of California, Nevada and Utah.
Rain was reported in the Los Angeles area on Monday morning.
Although the rain mitigates the drought, it can lead to dangerous flooding.
"The heavy rain will mainly cause local areas with flash floods, with urban areas, roads and small streams being most at risk until Tuesday morning," the weather service said. In the San Diego area, the weather service warned that "life-threatening debris flows near burn scars will be possible".
Over the weekend, a flash flood swept away a 16-year-old girl in Cottonwood, Arizona. The girl Faith Moore, who tried to cross a flooded street with her car, went missing on Sunday evening.
"I want to make it clear to the public once again how dangerous these water crossings can be, even if it looks shallow," said Danny Johnson, fire chief at Verde Valley. "A simple decision to cross the street with running water can quickly become tragic."
Lightning strikes as a monsoon storm blows over Mesa, Arizona on August 17, 2020.
While the risk of thunderstorms over northern California and Oregon, including where some of the country's worst wildfires rage, the risk of lightning strikes and gusty, erratic winds was not good news for the firefighters fighting the flames there. said the Sacramento Weather Service said.
In Arizona, nearly 99% of the state has been hit by drought in some form, according to the latest U.S. Drought Monitor released every Thursday.
The extent of the drought has improved over the past week due to rain across the southwest, according to CNN. "The highest level of drought has fallen from 58% to 36%, and with this recent burst of monsoon moisture, significant improvements are expected again this week," the network said.
Although the rain itself is popularly referred to as "monsoon", the term scientifically means a seasonal shift in wind direction. In July, winds turn south and south-east from the usual dry westerly direction, tapping moisture from northern Mexico.
It is this moisture that contributes to the summer thunderstorms that cause flash floods. Even small amounts of rain can lead to flooding, as they cannot penetrate the rock-hard, bone-dry soil. Still, the monsoons provide more than half of the annual rainfall for many communities in the southwest.
The word "monsoon" is derived from the Arabic mausim, which means "season," according to the American Meteorological Society. The monsoon season in the southwest usually lasts from July to September.
The southwest monsoons are not nearly as intense as the Asian monsoons, which often bring catastrophic flooding to India and other nations.
Contributor: Chelsea Curtis, Arizona Republic
This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: The southwest monsoon brings drought, but also floods

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