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Eos, Transactions American Geophysical Union

Heavy winter precipitation in southwest Arizona

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Abstract

During December 1992, according to the Weekly Climate Bulletin of the Climate Analysis Center in Washington, D.C., heavy precipitation inundated parts of Arizona causing more than 400% of normal precipitation to fall in the southwestern part of the state. Heavy precipitation continued to fall during the next 2 months, causing extensive flooding along the Gila River.

Phoenix Weather Service Forecast Office monthly storm data reports indicated flooding along the Santa Cruz and San Pedro Rivers on December 29. From January 7 to 20, roads, bridges, homes, businesses, and farmland suffered considerable flood damage from Graham County westward to Yuma County as rivers and streams swelled. Several thousand people were isolated in their homes as flood waters cut off roads. The January storm data report shows that the combination of a northward-displaced subtropical jet stream, with its abundant moisture supply and associated low pressure disturbances and a southward-displaced polar jet stream, with its storm track, led to the abnormally wet period from late December to mid-January. In February, severe flooding was reported in several areas as water rose in the Painted Rock Reservoir; water accumulating behind the dam produced the largest lake in the state. After exceeding the 2.5 million acre-feet capacity of the reservoir, water began spilling over the dam and damaging homes, crops, farmland, roads, and bridges. About 3,500 residents were evacuated, and the National Guard responded to the flooding with various relief efforts including helicopter support operations. The U.S. and Arizona Departments of Agriculture reported flood damage in excess of $50 million.

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