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Wed, Oct. 23

Prescott Valley prepares for a beast of a wet winter
Godzilla is coming, and he's bringing rain, snow

National media love to give scary labels. Last week, National Public Radio had a segment on California ski resorts excited because this year Godzilla El Niño is coming.

You won't see Godzilla downing telephone wires or stomping on cars in Prescott Valley, but this winter's El Niño system could equate to wilder, wetter storms that some forecasters liken to the legendary reptilian monster's strength.

According to a reference from NASA, this season's system could become a Godzilla-type El Niño because the oceanic signals may prove stronger than those recorded since 1997.

Brian Klimowski, the lead meteorologist for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's National Weather Service in Flagstaff, said he wasn't so sure about the Godzilla reference, but did agree that more precipitation will fall from the skies this winter.

The El Niño weather event will prove "very strong," and he explained that this weather pattern reveals the temperature of the ocean.

"It's not an atmospheric phenomenon," he said.

However, when ocean temperatures are warm, the atmosphere does respond.

"We're in for a strong El Niño for the southwest area ... each El Niño has its own flavor," Klimowski said.

Therefore, no two systems are alike.

"Statistically, what we see for the Prescott and Yavapai County area is a six out of a ten stage that does show wetter than normal conditions. We've got a good shot at a wetter than normal winter."

Precipitation totals since October for the Prescott area show levels well above normal.

"Currently, this El Niño is one of the strongest we've observed,"

What is El Niño?

According to the National Weather Service Flagstaff, El Niño is defined as warmer than normal sea-surface temperatures in the tropical Pacific Ocean that impact global weather patterns.

What are the impacts of El Niño for northern Arizona?

The general effects may be observed most during the winter months because of the stronger jet stream that typically takes place during the winter, when the effects of the warmer pool of water on the atmosphere are strongest, according to the NWS Flagstaff.

El Niño events take place on average every three to five years and for the latest information, visitors may track the El Niño progression at http://www.wrh.noaa.gov/fgz/.

Since the Prescott Valley area could receive several inches of snow during a winter storm, officials advise drivers to slow down and proceed with caution.

"Stay well behind the car in front of you and give plenty of clearance. Also, give yourself extra time," said Prescott Valley Public Works Director Norm Davis.

He explained that workers will operate the snow plows during a snow storm event by first clearing the major roadways, then the residential roads.

"We will get there. We have our priorities," he said.

The town operates a dozen snowplows and works well ahead of a forecast storm system.

"We work until we get all the streets open and we work around the clock on a 24-hour shift with a morning and evening crew pushing snow."

Follow Briana Lonas on Twitter at @blonas3; email her at blonas@prescottaz.com; call her at 928-775-4440, Ext. 1024; or 928-642-7868.

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