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Wed, Feb. 20
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Editorial: Driving requires more roads, or more patience

While you were taking in a family barbecue on Labor Day, enjoying the beautiful weather, things were happening elsewhere – enough to make you thankful you stayed close to home.

In the afternoon, for example, northbound Interstate 17 reopened near Black Canyon City after being closed because of a vehicle fire. The Arizona Department of Transportation said the reopening at milepost 250 began with the left traffic lane; however, southbound I-17 remained open but heavily congested.

It’s a sight we often see on holidays returning from the Valley of the Sun, viewing the southbound lanes heavy with stop-and-go traffic.

It comes when denizens of the Phoenix area return to their desert cities from the high country. And, it’s not limited to the interstates. In eastern Arizona, also on Monday, ADOT reported that a backup on Highway 260 east of Payson was close to five miles west of Kohl’s Ranch.

Upon hearing about all of it, I was glad we opted for a Jeep ride into the Prescott National Forest, rather than a trip farther away.

Knowing most areas need more access and retreat points – from the small, such as Williamson Valley Road residents needing another way to reach Highway 89, to the Phoenix area, which has loops here and there – it begs the question of when ADOT will come up with a plan that does not rely only on drivers’ patience.

That, after all, is always in short supply, if you’ve lived or traveled here for any amount of time.

As for those clear skies and that slight breeze, be warned dry conditions prevalent across most of Arizona in recent days are expected to give way to showers and thunderstorms starting mid-week and running into Thursday.

The National Weather Service states locally heavy rainfall and flash flooding may occur with the arrival of Hurricane Newton. The National Hurricane Center reported Monday that Newton strengthened into hurricane status, and forecasters say it will cross into south-central or southeastern Arizona Wednesday or Wednesday night.

According to the Weather Service, rainfall from the system likely will range between one-half inch and 2 inches through Thursday afternoon, with some locally heavier amounts exceeding 3 inches. (Figure we’ll see the shorter side of that, as usual … but, who knows?)

Regardless, moisture is expected to – again – linger with a slight chance of showers and thunderstorms.

It’s been a good, wet summer, huh?!

- Tim Wiederaenders, city editor

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