WHITE MOUNTAINS — Although showers dampened weekend activities and a bit of thunder rumbled over the White Mountains, the National Weather Service is predicting that the monsoon season will be late to arrive this summer, and not very powerful when it does show up.
According to the Initial Monsoon Outlook issued on June 26, a “discontinuous and/or later than normal start of monsoon activity is expected over Northern Arizona” this year, and “a likelihood of drier than normal conditions through July,” are expected.
Monsoon season is triggered by several atmospheric patterns, including “an established airflow pattern … which promotes the movement of moisture-rich air from the south and east into Arizona, and “abundant moisture in the lower atmosphere” that contributes to daily thunderstorm formation” especially over the Mogollon Rim and the White Mountains.
This year, current models do not show “a definitive start of a robust monsoon pattern over Northern Arizona,” according to the outlook.
Those condition will push fire season further into the summer this year, the Weather Service stated.
The scattered and sporadic monsoon storms predicted by the NWS will also bring the risk of wildfires started by lightning.
The White Mountain Fire Coordinating Group (WMFCG), made up of local fire district chiefs, emergency management staff from Navajo and Apache counties, tribal fire authorities, National Forest Service fire staffers and others, meet weekly by telephone to discuss fire conditions and whether fire restriction are needed.
According to Navajo County Emergency Manager Catrina Jenkins, after last week’s meeting the group agreed that while conditions are getting increasingly drier, no restrictions are needed just yet.
Jenkins issued a press release following the meeting. Stage 1 fire restrictions begin when the Energy Release Component (ERC) — measurement of how hot and fast forest fuels will burn — reaches the 90th percentile.
“We’re still below that,” Jenkins said in a phone interview on Monday morning.
“We had beautiful moisture over the weekend that put us back down,” she said of the ERC measurement.
“We are keeping a close eye on the risk of fire in our communities. At this point all key indicators show we have not reached the level to implement fire restrictions, however that does not mean we should not remain vigilant and always follow campfire best practices,” Jenkins said.
Jenkins also noted that the decreasing danger of the Woodbury Fire, which as of Monday was over 80 percent contained, also means that firefighters are returning to the area, which mean there are plenty of personnel available to respond to any potential fire starts.
Additionally, Navajo County Emergency Management in cooperation with Timber Mesa Fire and Medical District released two brief videos with “Mrs. Dousefire,” offering tips for campfire safety and explaining what illegal fireworks are. The videos are available on the WMI Central Facebook page.