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Rainy season unleashes with fury, beauty in US Southwest

FLAGSTAFF, Ariz. — After two bone-dry years that sank the U.S. Southwest deeper into drought, this summer’s rainy season unleashed with fury.

Monsoon storms have brought spectacular lightning shows, bounties of wildflowers and mushrooms, and record rainfall to the region’s deserts. They’ve also brought destruction, flooding streets and homes, and leading to some swift-water rescues and several deaths.

It’s a remarkable reversal from 2019 and 2020 when the annual period known simply as “the monsoon” left the region parched. The seasonal weather pattern that runs from mid-June through September brings high hopes for rain, but the moisture isn’t guaranteed.

“That traumatized a lot of us here in the Southwest, really worried if the monsoon was broken,” said Mike Crimmins, a climatologist at the University of Arizona. “And then here 2021 monsoon comes along, and it’s almost like we’re trying to make up for the last two seasons.”

Tucson, in southern Arizona, marked its wettest July on record and its 16th most soaked in August. The Phoenix airport is above average for the season by about an inch (2.5 centimeters) but is far from hitting the monsoon record for rainfall, the National Weather Service said. Some higher-elevation cities in metropolitan Phoenix fared better.

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