Wintry blast closes schools, plunges temperatures in Rockies
Monsoon brings high hope, delivers little rain in Southwest
FLAGSTAFF, Ariz. (AP) — A seasonal weather pattern that brings high hopes for rain, thunder and lightning was a dud across much of the U.S. Southwest this year.
The monsoon season runs from mid-June through September, characterized by a shift in wind patterns and moisture being pulled in from the tropical coast of Mexico.
Usually it means rain that can cool down scorching cities like Phoenix and Las Vegas, water crops in low-lying areas and reduce the risk of wildfire. It also can be disappointing.
Some communities in northern Arizona, including Flagstaff and Phantom Ranch at the bottom of the Grand Canyon, had the driest monsoon seasons on record. Phoenix’s season was the fifth driest recorded. St. George in southern Utah received just traces of rain and most of the Four Corners region didn’t fare much better.
„We were all excited that Utah was completely drought-free for a time and now the Four Corners area and the Arizona border area are now back in,” said Steve Rogowski, a meteorologist in the National Weather Service’s Salt Lake City office.
In Arizona, the mountainous city of Flagstaff normally gets 8.3 inches (21.08 centimeters) of rain in monsoon season but had 2.08 inches (5.28 centimeters) — the driest in more than 120 years of record keeping. The Grand Canyon airport, Teec Nos Pos on the Navajo Nation and Show Low also had record low rainfall.
The only northern Arizona locale that hit its average was Jerome, a former copper mining town, with 7.33 inches (18.62 centimeters) of rain. Tucson and Nogales in southern Arizona came in close to normal.
No other monsoon season was drier in St. George than 1944, when the city had no rain.
Las Vegas got a little more than a quarter-inch (.63 centimeters) from June to the end of September this year, the 14th driest on record.
It’s hard to say why the Southwest overall had less rainfall than normal or explain why rain dumps on one section of a city but not another. For people who live below areas scorched by wildfire, a nearly non-existent monsoon means less of a chance for severe flooding. Same goes for residents who live near or drive through normally dry washes.
„Just about the only downside I can think of is the weather enthusiasts who look forward to the rain and lightning and storms every year,” said Matthew Hirsch with the weather service in Phoenix. „It’s kind of disappointing in that regard.”
National forests in New Mexico and Arizona largely were free of fire restrictions this summer, thanks to an above-average snowpack last winter.
The odds for the upcoming winter are tilted toward above-average temperatures but no strong signal on snow or rain.
MEXICO CITY (AP) — Tropical Storm Narda soaked the resort city of Mazatlan with sheets of driven rain and whipped palm trees with its strong winds Monday, swamping streets and causing some seemingly minor property damage after passing over Puerto Vallarta, another popular beach destination.
Government agencies and local media posted images online of workers clearing refuse, apparently from signs or rooftops, as well as downed trees and power lines and shattered shopfront windows.
The storm was crawling up Mexico’s west coast on a forecast track parallel to the shore. Narda had previously been downgraded to a tropical depression after moving over land Sunday, but it regained tropical storm strength after passing back over water.
The U.S. National Hurricane Center in Miami said Narda’s maximum sustained winds had increased to 50 mph (85 kph), and its center was about 65 miles (100 kilometers) west of Culiacan in the early evening.
It was heading northwest over the Gulf of California at 20 mph (32 kph), and continuing to dump heavy rains and cause flooding in northwestern Mexico, the center said.
Classes were canceled as a precaution in Sinaloa state, which is home to Mazatlan, and some flights to and from the city were suspended.
The Hurricane Center said Narda could dump an additional 2 to 4 (5 to 10 centimeters) of rain along the coast in Sinaloa and Nayarit, with isolated totals of 10 to 15 inches (25 to 38 centimeters). Significant rainfall was also expected in the states of Chihuahua, Durango, Sonora and Baja California Sur.
Authorities reported flooded roads and rivers, and the storm also toppled trees and billboards and washed out some roads earlier in the southwestern state of Guerrero. Local media reported that a 26-year-old man died while trying to cross a river in San Pedro Mixtepec, Oaxaca state.
Meanwhile in the Atlantic, Category 2 Hurricane Lorenzo remained on course toward the Azores, a Portuguese island chain, where authorities issued a hurricane warning for central and western islands and a tropical storm warning for two eastern ones.
According to the current forecast, Lorenzo’s center could pass near the Azores by early Wednesday.
The Hurricane Center said the „very large” storm had maximum sustained winds of 105 mph (165 kph) Monday. It was moving north-northeast at 15 mph (24 kph) and was centered about 965 miles (1,555 kilometers) west-southwest of the Azores.
Lorenzo was previously a Category 5 hurricane, the strongest storm ever observed so far north and east in the Atlantic basin.
A couple planned for a fall wedding in Washington state. A ‘historic’ snowstorm changed everything
Roughly 30 minutes away from a couple’s planned outdoor wedding near Spokane, Washington, Jaime Fletcher wasn’t thinking about a potential snowstorm.
On the drive from the Spokane Valley to Bear Creek Lodge at the base of Mount Spokane, though, the snow became heavier and and blanketed the area.
The newlywed couple, Sean and Brittany Tuohy, handled the situation with smiles, Fletcher said. They originally planned an outdoor wedding, but had to pivot indoors in the face of the storm.
„They’ve been together for almost 10 years,” Fletcher said in a phone interview with USA TODAY. „I had never met them in person until the wedding day. I photograph weddings all the time and it’s so apparent when people love each other. This was one of the sweetest loves I’ve ever seen.
„Sean was so sweet with her, picking snow out of her eyelashes. Doing little things he’s not prompted to do. I just thought it was really special they made the best of it. They really wanted to get married, regardless of the crazy storm outside, and they did it.”
Snow covered parts of Washington, California, Oregon, Montana, Idaho, Nevada and Utah in what the National Weather Service called a „historic” winter storm. Saturday’s snow, a record 1.9 inches at the city’s airport, marked Spokane’s first recorded September snow since 1926.
Prepared with winter boots and a winter coat, Fletcher was outside for about 15 minutes in the snow with Sean and Brittany, plus groomsmen and bridesmaids.
„They thought it was the funniest thing,” Fletcher said. „They had the best attitude about it.”
She added, „Honestly, I was dreading sending the photos because I’m a perfectionist. There was so much snow, it was hard to work with. But everybody has loved them.”
Fletcher said she’s never taken photos in such conditions. She said she’s shot winter weddings before, but she’s never had snow on a wedding day. She’s been shooting weddings for about three years and has been a photographer for about a decade.
„The snow was going every direction,” she said. „It wasn’t just going in one direction.”
Paris (AFP) – One crew member has been found dead and 10 others are still missing after a supply vessel operated by a French oil services group sank in hurricane conditions in the Atlantic, the ship’s operator said on Monday.
The Luxembourg-flagged Bourbon Rhode, crewed mainly by Ukrainians, ran into difficulty in the Atlantic late last week as it ran into hurricane Lorenzo, and was later confirmed to have sunk.
A major search operation was then launched for the 14 people who were on board the tug supply vessel. Three crew members who had made their way onto a lifeboat were rescued on Saturday.
The Bourbon Rhode’s operator, French marine logistics group Bourbon, which provides services to oil rigs, said one body had now been found but the search was continuing for the other crew members.
„The body of the missing seafarer was located by one of the aircraft involved in the search and has been recovered by one of the five vessels that came to assist,” Bourbon said.
„Rescue operations are continuing to find the other crew members, with significant maritime and air search resources deployed by the French and American authorities,” it added.
The ship ran close to the eye of the category 4 hurricane some 1,200 nautical miles from the French Caribbean island of Martinique.
The Ukrainian foreign ministry said „around 10” of its citizens were missing after the ship sank. „The search operation is ongoing,” the ministry official, Vasyl Kyrylych, told AFP by phone.