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Wed, Nov. 20

October ends with significant break from drought

PRESCOTT – While there is no indication that the Southwest's drought is ending, the month of October certainly gave Prescott a temporary break.

October produced a huge boost of precipitation for the drought-starved region.

The National Weather Service measuring station at Prescott's Sundog wastewater treatment plant on the northeast side of town recorded 3.45 inches of rain in October, by far the most of any month so far this year. The second-highest amount was the 2.13 inches that fell in July.

The fact that October 's rain was 3.19 times the 106-year average for the site in October shows just how unusual it was. Two major rainfall events produced most of the moisture – 1.63 inches on Oct. 21 and then 1.76 inches on Oct. 28-29. They were the result of strong low-pressure systems that moved in off the California coast and pulled in moisture from the gulf.

As of the end of September, the year-to-date precipitation at Sundog was only 59 percent of average. But by the end of October, it increased to 76 percent of average.

The unusual precipitation was not because of the effect of El Niño, said Tom Clemmons, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Flagstaff.

"It was just a nice change from what we had the last four or five falls," Clemmons said.

The fall season during the previous several years has been dry and warm, Clemmons noted.

This past October was not only unusually wet, but also abnormally cold all of a sudden, he noted.

So people who felt a little wimpy for bundling up shouldn't feel bad, he said, because they didn't get a chance for gradual acclimation to the cooler weather.

"It takes a while for the human body to climatize itself," he said.

El Niño, signaled by a warming Pacific Ocean, traditionally affects Arizona in the winter, but forecasters predict that it will be weak this year. National Weather Service forecasters are calling for slightly above-normal temperatures and precipitation for December through February because of El Niño.

But the region still is in the grips of a drought that has been going on at least eight years.

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