With the heart of Arizona’s monsoon season upon us, the Town of Gila Bend and the Gila Bend Fire Department would like to review with you some of the simple safety practices and local resources, which can help you minimize the potential dangers that come with the monsoons. The towering walls of dust known as “haboobs”, thunderstorms producing high winds, and flash floods that are associated with this time of year, can cause property damage, injuries, and even loss of life. However, the Fire Department is committed to helping you be safe and prepared during this period.
The monsoons come annually in Arizona, and although the season officially runs from June 15th through September 30th, the powerful storms often associated with it, generally begin in mid to late July. Fueled by daytime heating, thunderstorms typically build during the late afternoon to early evening and dissipate during the night, only to have the cycle begin again the next day. It is this daily cycle that gives us our predictable monsoon patterns. To help you prepare for the storm season, we encourage you to take the following preparedness actions:
1) Plan: Write and rehearse a family communication plan (English or Spanish). The plan should identify a meeting place and include out-of-town contacts.
2) Prepare: Build an emergency go-kit with enough nonperishable food and water to last your family, including pets, for at least 72 hours. Include family prescriptions, copies of important documents, and a weather radio. Additionally, include items such as face coverings, hand sanitizer, and sanitizing wipes in your go-kit to protect you and your family from illness.
3) Inquire: Know what hazards are in your community and where you travel. Get current weather forecasts on TV, on the radio, or online. Go to ein.az.gov and enter your address in the University of Arizona's Arizona Hazard Viewer to learn about hazards in your area. Stay informed about air quality by viewing the hourly forecasts at azdeq.gov/forecasting or by downloading the AirArizona App (iPhone or Android).
4) Inspire: Be a preparedness example for others in your community. There are many ways to be a preparedness example for family, friends, neighbors, and coworkers. For example, you can give blood or take a basic first aid course and invite others to join you. Or you can simply share what you've learned about personal and family preparedness and find ways to involve others in the preparations. Talking about your plans with others helps grow the conversation and raise awareness about preparedness. Helping your neighbors empowers community leaders to involve and educate people in the community about the simple steps one can take to become more prepared.
An Arizona haboob is an incredibly impressive sight. Dominating the landscape, they can move quickly across the valley floor and can reduce driving visibility to near zero. If you are driving through a dust storm that obscures your vision, we strongly advise you to follow these safe driving tips:
- Pull your vehicle off of the road, as far to the right as possible.
- Put the vehicle in “park”, turn OFF your headlights, and take your foot off of the brake.
- Make sure that everyone remains seated in the vehicle with their seatbelts fastened.
- Wait for safe driving conditions to return.
By following these steps, you will reduce the chances that other drivers mistake your vehicle as the one to follow.
The heavy rains produced by thunderstorms can create roadway hazards as well. Sudden decreases in visibility and hydroplaning are two of the major threats to driving safety that are produced by the downpours. By taking a few precautions, the risks of driving during stormy conditions can be minimized.
- Inspect your windshield wipers and tires, replace them if necessary.
- Turn your headlights ON when driving.
- Reduce your speed.
- Increase the distance between you and the vehicle in front of you.
- Ease your foot off of the gas if you are hydroplaning.
- Avoid sudden braking.
In addition to creating poor driving conditions, the rains can cause flooding in low-lying areas. DO NOT cross flooded washes, even if the water doesn’t look deep or fast. It only takes a few inches of running water to pose a serious threat.
The 'Stupid Motorist Law' or ARS 28-910 is a law that basically says if a motorist drives around a barricade closing a road due to high water, that person will pay for their rescue if they get stuck in the wash and emergency personnel needs to get them out safely. You can read the exact wording of this law here.