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Here comes the monsoon, now pull over

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Nearly a month after the season officially started, the West Valley finally got its first taste of the 2017 monsoon.

June 15 signals the start of the monsoon — our rainy season — but considering the Valley of the Sun only sees an average of .02 inches of rain in June, that date doesn’t mean much. Kind of like June 21. That may be the first day of summer in the Midwest, but by the time June 21 rolls around, Arizonans are already grousing about the heat, and their electric bills.

The monsoon didn’t always start on June 15. Meteorologists used to mark the start date based on dew points. But apparently, that was way too confusing for the masses, so about 10 years ago, an arbitrary date was chosen. Never mind that we don’t typically see any monsoon activity before July.

But that doesn’t stop us from hoping for monsoon storms the day the season starts.

We watch thunderheads become denser. We see lightning in every direction. We pray for the rain that is sure to follow.

Some of our prayers were answered late Sunday night/early Monday morning when we got a spattering of rain. Not sure if it rained where you live? Look at your car windshield, if it’s dirty, you got rain!

Now don’t go turning off your landscape irrigation just yet. It was just a sprinkling. But it bodes well for things to come — namely more of that wet stuff and a reprieve from our triple-digit temperatures.

However, with that comes some dangerous driving conditions we should all be aware of. Monsoon storms happen fast, sometimes with little warning, and can bring zero visibility dust storms and flash flooding.

The Arizona Department of Transportation has begun its annual Pull Aside Stay Alive campaign to educate drivers who may find themselves in dust storms.

ADOT recommends drivers exit the highway if they can or pull off the roadway; turn off their vehicle headlights and marker lights; set their emergency brakes and take their foot off the brake; stay in their vehicles with their seatbelts fastened; and be patient while the storm passes.

Pulling off the road and waiting for the storm to pass makes perfect sense, but a lot of drivers wouldn’t think to turn off their lights and keep their foot off the brake. That is so important because drivers follow other drivers’ taillights to stay on the road when visibility is poor. You all see where we’re going with this, right?

With all that dust usually comes rain — the force behind the dirt — but our sandy soil and caliche isn’t exactly conducive to draining so all that water just sits on top, collecting until it floods out roadways.

All drivers should be aware of the state’s Stupid Motorist Law, which puts the financial responsibility of a rescue on the driver’s shoulders should he become stranded after attempting to cross a flooded roadway.

Most of us look forward to monsoon storms but when we’re behind the wheel, we must also respect them.

Pull Aside Stay Alive.

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