Despite wet monsoon, southern Arizona still facing drought

Despite wet monsoon, southern Arizona still facing drought

TUCSON, AZ (Tucson News Now) - Monsoon 2016 has no doubt been one for the books.

According to the National Weather Service in Tucson, it was the wettest season southern Arizona has seen in the last five years.

But that doesn't mean Tucson is in the clear just yet when it comes to its drought.

Tucson News Now's Chief Meteorologist Kevin Jeanes, predicted an earlier start to the monsoon, and that's exactly what Tucson got.

Experts at the NWS in Tucson say that early start was enough to squash some of the region's wildfire activity early.

The NWS says the severity of the drought improved in northwest and southeastern Arizona, but places in western Pima County and out to Yuma got less rain than normal and actually got worse.

Read more stats HERE: http://tucsonne.ws/2c9sGS8

Ken Drozd, warning coordination meteorologist with NWS Tucson, said the true test will come after the monsoon to see if drought conditions don't get worse.

"Being able to sustain that is always a the tough part, because often throughout the fall into early winter, sometimes we don't get the rain. If we can get one or two decent events or kind of a widespread rain event, that will certainly go a long ways towards keeping us out of this more severe drought situation," he said.

Typically, Tucson gets about six inches of rain during the monsoon.

This year, Tucson received more than seven and a half inches.

But the forest service is calling it a double edged sword, because while the rain helped the dry conditions, it also helped a lot of the fire fuels like grass grow more rapidly.

This summer, fires sparked on Mount Lemmon and throughout the state.

Because we've had some wetter years, conditions have been good for grass to grow and now there's an accumulation of these grasses.

These fire fuels can burn more intensely and fire can move through them more quickly.

Heidi Schewel with the Coronado National Forest said residents should be aware that fire season is now year round and the short term relief from the monsoon won't be enough to put an end to fires.

"Conditions may be misleading for people, they may see things getting cooler, we'll have storms coming through, but again it's not time to let your guard down because we do see these fires every month and people need to keep that in mind," Schewel said.

Experts are hoping the winter months can bring some extra moisture and relief from the region's dry conditions.

Forest crews want residents to be extra cautious.

Never throw cigarette buds out the window, and campers, make sure campfires are completely put out.

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