A winter storm system soaked the Phoenix metropolitan area Monday with heavy downpours, while also providing for snow in northern parts of Arizona. The precipitation is expected to continue through the evening.
The Valley is expected to get up to three-quarters of an inch of rain from storms that began Monday morning, said Leslie Wanek, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Phoenix. Although storms should fizzle out by Wednesday or Thursday, two more weather systems will make their way to the state beginning Friday morning. A break is expected Saturday, but a chance of rain returns on Sunday.
Last week's storms brought more rain than this week's downpour will, but weather experts said the current storm system is cooler, with snow falling in Flagstaff at about noon Monday. Clair Ketchum, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Flagstaff, said accumulations will probably exceed projections of one to three feet of snow starting at 6,500 feet elevation. The state has had 37 inches of snow this season, surpassing the normal level of about 31 inches.
"With this additional snowfall, it should work to replenish the hydrological cycle and (help) forest managament," said Ketchum. Moisture should lower fire danger, he said.
Meteorologists said the current storms likely mean wetter-than-usual weather until March. The precipitation provides welcome relief, but it's unlikely one wet year will overcome a nearly decade-long drought, said Tony Haffer, meteorologist in charge at the National Weather Service in Phoenix.
"It's going to take a number of wet years to mitigate the drought," he said.
Snowfall this week is encouraging because it means water from snow melt-off will be available at a slower pace, said Haffer. Rain in the past several days has quickly filled up the smaller Verde reservoirs, requiring water releases in the Salt River. What's needed for a good water supply this summer is more snowpack melting into the Salt River resevoir system, which supplies the much of the Valley's water, said Haffer.
This week's wet weather, he said, "may be a sign of things to come, but of course Mother Nature is the one that drives the ship."