2006- Arizona Moonsoon Chasing

Susan,
I've been hoping for some time now that you would post here regarding the monsoon season starting in AZ.
Finally :) Thank you for the interesting info as the whole thing is very fascinating and I hope that soon I'll be there to experience the Arizona lighting chase. I just got back from the Midwest chase and it's been quite busy here in south Florida. We have had lightning on the increase here lately. July and August are the peak season and we also get large numbers of waterspouts. I'd like to ask you being in Arizona desert at night - the weather is the obvious threat during monsoon but how about rattlesnakes and scorpions...did you have any close calls while chasing or are they not as common to come upon at night. Also in your post I did not notice you mentioning the Mt. Lemmon just out of Tuscon as one of the spots - what is your experience with that.
Thank You for your time, your work is trully inspiring,

Regards,

Martin Kucera
FloridaLightning.com



Monsoon is official in Phoenix, Arizona as of Sunday, July 2. Phoenix reached three consecutive days of 55 degree average dewpoint. Typical start is July 7 so it is a little early.

Tucson's monsoon typically begins before Phoenix, as Tucson has to reach a 54 degree avg dewpoint for three consecutive days. They have had storms there for several days. Southern Arizona is also closer to Old Mexico so the monsoon flow reaches there first. To get to Phoenix it has to cross more land including the Central Deserts. This has been no obstacle however, lightning has been around the Valley last 7 nights and there is good chasing in the Central Deserts and many other places.

Favorable places that seem get storms with some regularity and local notes:

Mogollon Rim, Apache Sitgreaves to Show Low
Notes: Largest ponderosa pine forest in the world, but looking off the Rim one can get spectacular views. You will stand on a 1,000-2,000 foot cliff (edge of Colorado Plateau) with eagle-eye views. Road warning: Watch for elk. Steep grades, highly mountainous terrain.

Benson and Willcox and Willcox playa (lake bed)
Notes: Excellent chasing but closer to the Mexican border. Guaranteed you will be stopped by Border Patrol but that's ok. Watch for activity, keep it always in your mind.

Wickenburg area
Notes: Favorable. Landscape is Sonoran Desert terrain; saguaro cactus and spectacular Joshua Trees nearby. Roads: 2-lane. Watch for flash floods and people who don't know how to pass. Wickenburg is a nice Western town. Don't count on too much outside near there, Congress, Yarnell are still listed as ghost although a few people live out there.

Prescott
Notes: Fantastic area to chase. Mountainous, with some steep and curvy mountain grades. Sweeping views in places, big storms. Lots of services.

Bullhead City/NW corner and Kingman
Notes: Colorado River towns. Desert heat is most extreme in this part of the state. It is not uncommon to reach over 120 degrees. Scenic terrain; needle-mountains.

Globe to Safford across San Carlos Apache Tribal lands.
Notes: You can drive highway 70 between towns. Very few services for about 1 hour, so be sure to have a full tank. Tribal permit is required to go off highway in most places, and permit office closes at 4pm but there is a Circle K in Globe where you might be able to get one. Globe and Safford are not on Indian land and there are many services in both. Terrain is vast, mostly wild. Mt Graham is nearby; nearly 11,000 ft.

Canyon country (N AZ, S UT and four corners area)
Distances and landscape on the plateaus are so big it is proposterous. The North Rim of the Grand Canyon is a lightning hotspot. Page is the closest decently-sized town nearby (nearby is a relative term). Page sits on the edge of Lake Powell, a body of water with 2,000 miles of shoreline. Terrain consists of steep cliffs, seemingly bottomless gorges, rock formations. Keep the gas tank full (really). The size of the place...it is too big for humans. LOL

Phoenix Valley of the Sun:
Notes: Phoenix proper has strong heat island effect. Best areas near the Valley where storms always seem to hang out: Apache Junction, Florence, Queen Creek, Gold Canyon, Superior, Fountain Hills, Black Canyon City and New River, Cave Creek/Carefree, White Tank Mountains on West Side, far north Scottsdale.

Central Deserts:
Notes: Landscape is basin & range topography. You will see mountains and peaks then flat areas. Small towns only, Casa Grande being the biggest. Truck stops and services available along I-10. Interstate 8 is a little more isolated although it is a storm magnet. Here is a picture of Central Deserts topography, everything pretty much looks like this:
LLCallofthedesert.jpg

Even though the Central Deserts are 1-2 hours north of the border, activity can't be ruled out, so just be aware. However, there are some towns around, like Picacho, Eloy, Casa Grande, Marana, Gila Bend. Gas is available on I-10 but it is always a good idea to keep tank full and bring plenty of spare water. It is hot in the Central Deserts. Flash floods occur there too. The Central Deserts is a favorite chase place of mine, the land is open, visibility is 360 degrees.

Note: I don't chase near the border these days; nor would I recommend any chasing there until things cool down. Nogales, Sells, Lukeville, Douglas, all border towns plus Organ Pipe National Monument, Cabeza Prieta, Buenos Aires and other wildlife refuges...off my list for now. It is too much trouble and I have a million square miles of Arizona to choose from so there is no need to chase there at all with so much available.

Monsoon chasing largely takes place at night. What to expect: Very high wind, over 100 mph gusts have been recorded. Microburst, haboob/sand wall/dust storm, intense lightning, torrential rain and flash flood.

Lightning has been plentiful last several nights. It has been great chasing it. I'm a little tired :)
[/b]
 
I started this thread to continue the discussion from Chase Reports.

I can add a little to what Susan posted -- spent about twenty years around Tucson. The Mount Lemmon highway is a great road with some far-reaching vistas, but it's a long drive and you may often find yourself in the middle of a thundershower rather than at a photogenic distance. My personal favorite is the area south of Tucson -- Tubac, Madera Canyon, Green Valley, and the Santa Rita Mountains. Lots of vistas, great hiking, and/or sightseeing to boot.

And then of course there's the Kitt Peak (KPNO) road. Several well-known lightning shots come from there. As a visitor the National Observatory is a worthwhile stop even without storms. Likewise the Arizona-Sonoran Desert Museum. Visit that great museum and bring your camera for the late afternoon storms. The main road back to Tucson from the ASDM goes over Gates Pass in the Tucson Mountains with vistas both east and west with a short climb above the parking lot.

A-Mountain just west of and overlooking downtown Tucson is another great spot. I've seen storms galore, dust devils, and a few dustnados from A-Mountain. It's also a CG magnet -- when in doubt don't get out!

Although you can rarely come upon creatures on the roadside, you need to be camping or hiking to stand much chance of running into stingy thingies. Wearing suitable footwear, i.e. not open-toed or flip-flops, and watching where you step are pretty good protection against those and the far bigger hazard -- sticking thingies. Assume every plant has it in for your exposed flesh, with some even leaving spines in your clothes for later. My personal favorites are "shindaggers" (a small form of agave) and the hard little, hooked four-pointed seeds that will imbed themselves into shoe soles, bare feet, or the rear-end given an opportunity.
 
Very interesting and thanks for starting this thread.
I plan to head to Tucson either July 21-25 or more likely early August to videotape and photograph storms ,lighting and see the sights down there. Another objective is to videotape and photograph hummingbirds south of Tucson. (there are several of hte best spots to see many species of these birds there- I can only see the Ruby Throat here in Kansas.)

If anyone is going down there during these times let me know.
I am interested to know more what to check out in Tucson. I have a nephew in Tucson too at U of A there too so he knows more.
I have been to Flagstaff, Meteor Crater, Sedona but I will target Tucson and below.
I have some magazine, AAA that I am combing through,

Looking forward to more insights on this thread.Thanks

PS Beatty's Ranch is the best place for hummies. Hoep the monsoons don't blow them all away !!!!

**



I started this thread to continue the discussion from Chase Reports.

I can add a little to what Susan posted -- spent about twenty years around Tucson. The Mount Lemmon highway is a great road with some far-reaching vistas, but it's a long drive and you may often find yourself in the middle of a thundershower rather than at a photogenic distance. My personal favorite is the area south of Tucson -- Tubac, Madeira Canyon, Green Valley, and the Santa Rita Mountains. Lots of vistas, great hiking, and/or sightseeing to boot.

And then of course there's the Kitt Peak (KPNO) road. Several well-known lightning shots come from there. As a visitor the National Observatory is a worthwhile stop even without storms. Likewise the Arizona-Sonoran Desert Museum. Visit that great museum and bring your camera for the late afternoon storms. The main road back to Tucson from the ASDM goes over Gates Pass in the Tucson Mountains with vistas both east and west with a short climb above the parking lot.

A-Mountain just west of and overlooking downtown Tucson is another great spot. I've seen storms galore, dust devils, and a few dustnados from A-Mountain. It's also a CG magnet -- when in doubt don't get out!

Although you can rarely come upon creatures on the roadside, you need to be camping or hiking to stand much chance of running into stingy thingies. Wearing suitable footwear, i.e. not open-toed or flip-flops, and watching where you step are pretty good protection against those and the far bigger hazard -- sticking thingies. Assume every plant has it in for your exposed flesh, with some even leaving spines in your clothes for later. My personal favorites are "shindaggers" (a small form of agave) and the hard little, hooked four-pointed seeds that will imbed themselves into shoe soles, bare feet, or the rear-end given an opportunity.
[/b]
 
It's funny that several Monsoon threads have taken off today. Tucson got whacked by a 'severe' thunderstorm this afternoon. Down by the airport, where I work, we had ~40MPH sustained winds and driving rain. Although tame by Kansas standards, this represents a Big Blow around here. Over ~45 minutes, we got upwards of 2 inches of rain that flooded streets, stalled cars, and made the evening commute much more interesting.

As David mentions, the Mt. Lemmon road enjoys several nice overlook sites along the way. The Babad Do'ag overlook, not far from the city limits, is a lood place to watch storms build over the Rincon Mountains, east of town. The view extends all the way routh to the Santa Rita range, with Elephant Head prominently sillouetted against the southern sky. Further up the road, Windy Point, offers great views to the west and south, overlooking central Tucson. Near the top, just shy of Summerhaven, there are several good views to the East, affording unobstructed viewing of the San Pedro River valley, Reddington area, and the Galiuro Mountain Range further east. Near the top, there is a ranger station / visitor center. They have a Hummingbird feeder that attracts swarms of the little buggers. I don't know much about the various species, but there is a GIANT mountain HB (Looked it up - 'Magnificent' HB, I believe) that shows frequently. The male has superb iridescence and color on his chest.

My favorite areas are SE of Tucson. HWY 83 is a scenic drive, with rugged moutnains, sweeping grasslands, and endless sky all around. I took a very pleasant drive there this evening, although it was fairly clear that the storms were over for the day. I did catch a sublime sunset, complete with clearing storm clouds, and distant mountains softly lit by ruddy alpenglow. Just south of mile marker 40 is the the Las Cienegas Conservation District. A short drive east on a well maintained dirt road offered an unobstructed view to the Whetstone Mountains, and a glorious grassland set ablaze by the fading sunset. I'll be 'camping' there frequently this year; any twilight lightnng over the Whetstones will make for a VERY sweet pic.

Another place I'd like to chase/shoot is Chiricahua N.P., about 100 miles ESE of Tucson. The hoodoos of welded tuff look unearthly by moonlight; and adding a touch of lightning (with fading sunset for sky color!) to the western sky should be very photogenic.

The Central Desert area, west of Eloy and Casa Grande is wildly different terrain. Stark desert scrubland is periodically interrupted by small, jagged, picturesque mountain ranges. The horizon stretches forever, and the sunsets sometimes feel as if they are sucking you in. I haven't been out there much. Since most of the weather comes from the south, I'd be in a tailchase and playing catchup coming from Tucson. It's also my experience that storms will often peter out as they leave the Tucson area heading north. Susan and other PHX area chasers have better access and intercept opportunities.

To those visiting Tucson soon, feel free to PM me if you like. I can perhaps offer some more chase location, and point out intersting thing to do by day. (Titan Missile Museum, UofA Miror Lab, Kitt Peak and Mt. Hopkins telescope tours, etc.) For that matter, maybe we could chase together for a day or two.

-Greg
 
Susan, I'd like to ask you being in Arizona desert at night - the weather is the obvious threat during monsoon but how about rattlesnakes and scorpions...did you have any close calls while chasing or are they not as common to come upon at night.[/b]

Thanks... wow your website is fantastic by the way.

To answer about rattlesnakes and scorpions in Arizona...
Rattlesnakes: Here is a Tohono O'Odham (tribal people who are experts at desert living) tip I heard for walking in the desert: Walk looking at your feet and not at the scenery around. That is always the way I walk in the desert, so I don't step on some poor snake (or prickly ouch cholla cactus...very nasty). The snakes are often desert-colored. However, snakes are not going to go looking for people to bite, we are not a meal for them so they do not want to waste venom on some old cowboy boot that is not going to serve as dinner. Some say that snakes avoid moving about during full moon because since they can see without light anyway (heat sensory). The full moon lighting up the place like a headlamp is a disadvantage for them because owls and other predators can readily see them and might want to prey on them. Still, I have seen very large snakes roaming about during a bright full moon so I wouldn't rule that out. Just watch the ground. I like to remember too that if I don't touch him, he can't bite me. A lot of bites occur when the critter is touched or handled.

Scorpion: You have to work hard to make a scorpion sting you, but there is one little guy in Arizona who delivers a pretty nasty sting so best avoid him. It is a small scorpion called the Bark Scorpion. It is a small animal, less than 2 inches and tan-colored...but don't let the baby size fool you. It is a good idea to check your boots and zip up your tent door (a mistake I made last fall when I was on assignment for the Apache tribe and went to the campfire then I came back to discover my tent door left open, and a huge black something crawling across my quilt. I picked it up (dumb) but it was only a giant grasshopper and I was pretty sure, otherwise I would have never grabbed it. I will not handle scorpions because even though I think they're kind of cool, I don't want to suffer the painful sting. So I check my boots, my bed and my tent when camping. Scorpions like to hide under things in the shadows to stay nice and cool...so there are never clothes or newspapers on my floor. The Bark is able to climb walls. That is one way to recognize him. I wouldn't worry too much about scorpions, just think of a cool place where you would like to be if you were a critter and that is a likely place to find a scorpion or snake. Scorpions also flouresce bright green under blacklights so they are easy to see at night. You can make a portable one out of a camping light.

The critters in Arizona are superbly adapted, clever, strong and tough. However, you live in Florida so you're used to critters who are legendary! LOL
 
Back
Top