Wet May ends in storms

Les Stukenberg/The Daily Courier

Les Stukenberg/The Daily Courier

Prescott's unusually wet month of May went out with a bang over the weekend when a strong localized thunderstorm brought hail to the city.

Lightning ignited a couple juniper trees on the northwest part of the forest Saturday, but the flames didn't go anywhere.

Trained spotters in Prescott reported nickel-sized hail to the National Weather Service at about 1:30 p.m. Saturday. Others in Cottonwood reported penny-sized hail just a few hours later.

Prescott ended up with 0.93 inches of rain at the Sundog measuring site on the northeast side of town, which is 198 percent of the 111-year May average of 0.47 inches.

It also was an unusually warm month in Prescott, with an average high temperature of 80 degrees and average low of 49.5 degrees compared to the 111-year averages of 75.4 and 40.9 degrees respectively. This was particularly noteworthy since about half the days had significant periods of cloud cover.

The wet weather was a welcome respite from seasonal wildfire danger after every other month in 2009 produced below-average precipitation.

Flagstaff, which has more detailed weather records, set a couple of rain records in May. An 11-day run of precipitation May 20-30 was the second-longest streak of May rain in its history. And with 2.08 inches of rain, it was the city's fifth-wettest month on record compared to the average of 0.80 inches.

Flagstaff also set temperature records. It was the first time the city had no days drop to 32 degrees or lower in May. It was the second-warmest May on record, and produced the warmest average minimum temperature.

The southern Bradshaw Mountains did well, with the Crown King Fire Department recording one of the highest May rainfall totals in Yavapai County at 1.89 inches.

Crown King Fire Chief Steve Lombardo said it was the second-wettest May on record, with the first at 2.9 inches in 1992. The average for May is 0.52 inches. The agency's records date back to 1970.

Other May rainfall totals in Yavapai County from the Weather Service were 2 inches in Sedona, 1.31 inches in Jerome, 0.63 inches near Clarkdale, 0.51 inches in Seligman and 0.22 inches in Bagdad.

The region now is entering what historically is its driest month. The average June rainfall is 0.39 inches in Prescott.

The Weather Service expects high pressure to build over the desert Southwest over the next several days, producing warmer temperatures and gusty daytime winds, especially Thursday and Friday.

"A drier air mass will move over Arizona but enough moisture will remain for a slight chance of showers and thunderstorms each day," the Weather Service forecast discussion from Monday evening stated.

Prescott National Forest Fire Management Officer Jeff Andrews cautioned people about ongoing fire-use restrictions as the region dries out.

"Without a doubt, in June in Arizona, there is a fire season," Andrews noted.

The height of the fire season usually ends sometime around the Fourth of July for Prescott, as the monsoon brings plentiful showers.