Monsoon: Double-edged sword in rural Arizona

SONOITA, Ariz. - On a quiet day in Sonoita, the wind whistles through the golden fields. Much of the rural town's beauty lies within its tranquility. 

When monsoon comes around, folks like Sonoita-Elgin Fire District Chief Joseph De Wolf, hope mother nature will turn the landscape green, without weeks of black in between.

"Monsoon, it's a two-edged sword," he said. "The rain coming in is what we're hoping for, but we hope it gets here before the lightning comes in."

Early on in monsoon, the storms often bring heavy winds that are not accompanied by rain. When hot wind rips through the dry, golden fields, all it needs is a spark to wreak havoc in the area. 

"A couple of years back we had six lightning strikes at once, so we had six different fires going on within the district," De Wolf said. "So it's challenging until we get enough rain that we start to turn green."

This fear of fire in May and June often disturbs people's peace of mind who live there, like Kathleen Howard.

"June is a scary month. You just don't know," Howard said. "You can get lightning without any rain whatsoever, that's what started the fire last year."

The fire she's referring to is the Los Encinos Fire. That fire topped out at 1,289 acres, destroying a few homes. Howard's home was spared, but her property was not. Her yellow house atop a hill just a few minutes away from the main road in town stood out among the blackened land. But a few days after the burn, the rain rolled in. With it, came a new color, to brighten up her land.

"Oh you just want to go outside and dance," she said. "I saw little blades of grass coming up, and it really affected my heart. There was just a sense of relief and gratitude."

Her house still sits atop that hill in Sonoita, now once again in a field of that golden Sonoita grass. There are some burn scars on her property, but the land has healed up for the most part. As monsoon is just a few days away, Howard and De Wolf hope it stays that way, and have high hopes for Mother Nature.

"I'm hoping for the monsoon to get here early, and for the monsoon to be plentiful," De Wolf said. "If we get you know, 5 to 8 inches, we're getting a little more relaxed."

But until they reach that point, his team will be ready to deploy at a minutes notice, to keep the homes in Sonoita safe.


ADDITIONAL MONSOON COVERAGE: 

Tucson Fire crews train for monsoon rescues

Learn the frequent flooders and finding alternate routes

Monsoon: a double-edged sword in rural Arizona

Dangerous Monsoon rescues over the years

Nogales resident prepare for another year of monsoon, look back at 2017 monsoon

Hot spots to cool off can be deadly during monsoon

Monsoon 2018: What to do when the lights go out

 

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