List of Arizona hurricanes

Last updated
The remnants of Hurricane Nora over the Southwestern United States Hurricane Nora Remnants 1997.JPG
The remnants of Hurricane Nora over the Southwestern United States

Arizona has been affected by hurricanes on numerous occasions. Usually, these storms originate in the eastern Pacific Ocean, make landfall in the Mexican states of Baja California or Sonora, and dissipate before crossing into the United States. Thus, in most cases, it is only the tropical cyclones' remnant moisture that produces heavy rainfall—and in some occasions, flooding—in portions of Arizona. However, approximately every five years, a tropical cyclone retains sufficient strength to enter the state as a tropical storm or a tropical depression. Arizonans can expect indirect flash floods caused by the remnants of tropical cyclones to occur about every two years. [1]

Contents

Tropical cyclones in Arizona are not common, since the predominant wind pattern steers most storms that form in the Eastern Pacific either parallel or away from the Pacific coast of northwestern Mexico. As a result, most storms that could affect Arizona are carried away from the United States, with only 6% of all Pacific hurricanes entering US territory. [2] Not all Arizona hurricanes originate from the Pacific Ocean, however; in July 2008 an Atlantic hurricane named Hurricane Dolly produced rainfall in the eastern portion of the state, and another Atlantic storm reached Arizona as a tropical depression. Many, but not all, of these systems also impacted California.

Despite their rarity, hurricanes are among Arizona's most significant weather makers. In years when Arizona is affected by a tropical cyclone, these can be responsible for up to 25% of the rainfall in areas along the Colorado River. Arizona hurricanes are also responsible for torrential rains in localized areas, with the state's 24-hour rainfall record—11.97 inches (304 mm) of precipitation [3] —occurring during Hurricane Nora's landfall in 1997. The heavy rainfall can trigger extensive flash floods, such as the ones produced by the remnants of Tropical Storm Octave in 1983, or the lingering moisture from Tropical Storm Emilia in 2006.

Climatology

Number of storms affecting Arizona
MonthNumber of storms
June
2
July
2
August
12
September
21
October
10

Tropical cyclones are not common over Arizona, but on average, a tropical storm or a tropical depression enters the state approximately every five years. However, indirect flash floods caused by the remnants of tropical cyclones are more common, as they tend to occur about every two years. [1]

Storms that approach the southwestern United States, and by extension Arizona, generally form closer to the Mexican shoreline than average, making them more likely to recurve northwards under the influence of an approaching trough. These troughs tend to extend farther to the south during the latter part of the Pacific hurricane season, in the period between late August and early October. These pronounced troughs thus produce a synoptic-scale flow that is conducive to steering hurricanes towards the southwestern United States. [4]

The infusions of tropical moisture from Arizona-bound tropical cyclones can be a significant portion of the rainfall in the region. In years when hurricanes approach Arizona, eastern and northern portions of the state receive on average 6–8% of the monsoon-season precipitation from tropical systems and their remnants. This percentage rises towards the southwestern corner of the state, which can receive up to a quarter of its monsoon-season rainfall from tropical cyclones. [4]

Storms

Tropical storms are one of Arizona's main sources of rainfall, as they infuse the monsoon over the southwestern United States with moisture, producing large-scale floods in occasions. [5] However, all of the storms that have impacted Arizona have formed in the latter parts of the Pacific hurricane season, and only storm remnants have affected the state before August. [2]

Saffir–Simpson scale
CategoryWind speeds
(for 1-minute maximum sustained winds)
m/s knots (kn) mph km/h
Five ≥ 70 m/s   ≥ 137 kn   ≥ 157 mph   ≥ 252 km/h  
Four  58–70 m/s    113–136 kn    130–156 mph    209–251 km/h  
Three  50–58 m/s    96–112 kn    111–129 mph    178–208 km/h  
Two  43–49 m/s    83–95 kn    96–110 mph    154–177 km/h  
One  33–42 m/s    64–82 kn    74–95 mph    119–153 km/h  
Related classifications
(for 1-minute maximum sustained winds)
Tropical storm  18–32 m/s    34–63 kn    39–73 mph    63–118 km/h  
Tropical depression  ≤ 17 m/s    ≤ 33 kn    ≤ 38 mph    ≤ 62 km/h  
Chronology of tropical cyclones in Arizona
Storm Peak intensity SeasonIntensityDate [6]
Unnamed [7] 1921August 20, 1921
Unnamed [8] 1921September 30, 1921
Unnamed [6] 1926September 20, 1926
Unnamed [6] 1927September 7, 1927
One [9] 1929 June 30, 1929
Unnamed [10] 1935August 22, 1935
Unnamed [11] 1951August 3, 1951
Unnamed [11] 1958October 6, 1958
Claudia [6] 1962September 25, 1962
Tillie [10] 1964September 9, 1964
Emily [11] 1965September 6, 1965
Kirsten [13] 1966September 29, 1966
Katrina [6] 1967August 29, 1967
Hyacinth [11] 1968August 20, 1968
Pauline [14] 1968October 3, 1968
Norma [6] 1970September 4, 1970
Irene-Olivia [15] 1971October 1, 1971
Joanne [6] 1972October 4, 1972
Kathleen [6] 1976September 10, 1976
Liza [16] 1976October 2, 1976
Doreen [6] 1977August 13, 1977
Heather [6] 1977October 4, 1977
Octave [6] 1983September 28, 1983
Norbert [17] 1984September 25, 1984
Polo [18] 1984October 3, 1984
Raymond [11] 1989October 5, 1989
Boris [19] 1990June 11, 1990
Lester [11] 1992August 22, 1992
Hilary [21] 1993August 27, 1993
Flossie [22] 1995August 11, 1995
Ismael [11] 1995September 15, 1995
Nora [6] 1997September 25, 1997
Frank [23] 1998August 9, 1998
Isis [24] 1998September 5, 1998
Olivia [25] 2000October 11, 2000
Juliette [26] 2001October 3, 2001
Ignacio [27] 2003August 25, 2003
Marty [11] 2003September 22, 2003
Javier [28] 2004September 20, 2004
Emilia [29] 2006July 25, 2006
John [30] 2006September 5, 2006
Henriette [31] 2007September 6, 2007
Dolly [16] 2008 July 28, 2008
Julio [32] 2008August 25, 2008
Jimena [33] 2009September 5, 2009
Norbert [34] 2014September 8, 2014
Odile [36] 2014September 17, 2014
Newton [38] 2016September 7, 2016
Rosa [40] 2018October 2, 2018
Sergio 2018October 15, 2018

Storm systems

Wettest tropical cyclones and their remnants in Arizona
Highest-known totals
PrecipitationStormLocationRef.
Rankmmin
1305.112.01 Nora 1997 Harquahala Mountains [42]
2304.812.00 Octave 1983 Mount Graham [42]
3210.88.30 Heather 1977 Nogales [42]
4178.17.01 Doreen 1977 Yuma Valley [42]
5177.87.00 Javier 2004 Walnut Creek [42]
6166.96.57 Newton 2016 Rincon Mountains [43]
7158.86.25 Norbert 2014 Tempe 3.1 WSW [44]
8133.95.27 Lester 1992 Irving [42]
9100.13.94 TD Sixteen-E 2015 Dan Saddle [45]
1096.03.78 Raymond 1989 Santa Rita Experiment Range [42]

Several of these tropical cyclones have caused deaths or heavy property damage, usually due to flooding caused by rain.

Before 1960

Records of tropical cyclones in the East Pacific before 1950 are sparse, but there were still several storms that produced rainfall over Arizona in this period.

1960s

1970s

The rainfall produced by Hurricane Heather was concentrated along the United States-Mexico border. Heather 1977 rainfall.gif
The rainfall produced by Hurricane Heather was concentrated along the United States–Mexico border.

1980s

Rainfall due to Tropical Storm Octave throughout its track Octave 1983 rainfall.gif
Rainfall due to Tropical Storm Octave throughout its track

The 1980s saw destructive tropical cyclones pass through the state, as was the case with the previous decade.

1990s

During the 1990s, several tropical systems affected Arizona even after losing all tropical characteristics. However, two hurricanes survived long enough to reach Arizona while still considered tropical systems.

2000s

Hurricane Javier produced heavy precipitation in Arizona. Javier 2004 rainfall.gif
Hurricane Javier produced heavy precipitation in Arizona.

The last decade saw no storms reach Arizona while retaining tropical characteristics; however, numerous remnant lows caused heavy rainfall and flooding throughout the state.

2010s

See also

Related Research Articles

Hurricane Kathleen (1976) Category 1 Pacific hurricane in 1976

Hurricane Kathleen was a tropical cyclone that had a destructive impact in California. On September 7, 1976, a tropical depression formed; two days later it accelerated north towards the Baja California Peninsula. Kathleen brushed the Pacific coast of the peninsula as a hurricane on September 9 and made landfall as a fast-moving tropical storm the next day. With its circulation intact and still a tropical storm, Kathleen headed north into the United States and affected California and Arizona. Kathleen finally dissipated late on September 11.

Hurricane Javier (2004) Category 4 Eastern Pacific hurricane in 2004

Hurricane Javier was a very wet tropical cyclone whose remnants brought above-average rainfall totals across the western United States in September 2004. Javier was the tenth named storm and the sixth and final hurricane of the 2004 Pacific hurricane season. Javier was also the strongest hurricane of the 2004 season, with 150 mph (240 km/h) winds and a central pressure of 930 millibars. However, because of high wind shear in the East Pacific, Javier weakened rapidly before making landfall in Baja California as a tropical depression. The remnants of the storm then continued moving northeast through the Southwestern United States. Javier caused no direct fatalities, and the damage in Mexico and the United States was minimal.

Tropical Storm Alberto (2006) first tropical storm of the 2006 Atlantic hurricane season

Tropical Storm Alberto was the first tropical storm of the 2006 Atlantic hurricane season. Forming on June 10 in the northwestern Caribbean, the storm moved generally to the north, reaching a maximum intensity of 70 mph (110 km/h) before weakening and moving ashore in the Big Bend area of Florida on June 13. Alberto then moved through eastern Georgia, North Carolina, and Virginia as a tropical depression before becoming extratropical on June 14.

Tropical Storm Emilia (2006) Pacific tropical storm in 2006

Tropical Storm Emilia was a rare tropical cyclone that affected the Baja California Peninsula in July 2006. The sixth tropical depression and fifth tropical storm of the 2006 Pacific hurricane season, it developed on July 21 about 400 miles (650 km) off the coast of Mexico. It moved northward toward the coast, reaching peak winds of 65 mph (105 km/h) before turning westward and encountering unfavorable conditions. Emilia later turned to the north, passing near Baja California as a strong tropical storm. Subsequently, the storm moved further away from the coast, and on July 27 it dissipated.

Hurricane Isis (1998) Category 1 Pacific hurricane in 1998

Hurricane Isis was the only hurricane to make landfall during the 1998 Pacific hurricane season. The ninth tropical storm and sixth hurricane of the season, Isis developed on September 1 from an interaction between a tropical wave and a large surface circulation to the southwest of Mexico. It moved northward, striking the extreme southeastern portion of the Baja California peninsula before attaining hurricane status in the Gulf of California. Isis made landfall at Topolobampo in the Mexican state of Sinaloa on September 3, and quickly lost its low-level circulation. The remnants persisted for several days before dissipating over the U.S. state of Idaho on September 8.

Hurricane Lester (1992) Category 1 Pacific hurricane in 1992

Hurricane Lester was the first Pacific tropical cyclone to enter the United States as a tropical storm since 1967. The twelfth named storm and seventh hurricane of the 1992 Pacific hurricane season, Lester formed on August 20 from a tropical wave southwest of Mexico. The tropical storm moved generally northwestward while steadily intensifying. After turning to the north, approaching the Mexican coast, Lester attained hurricane status. The hurricane reached peak winds of 85 mph (140 km/h) before making landfall on west-central Baja California. The system weakened while moving across the peninsula and then over northwestern Mexico. Not long after entering Arizona, Lester weakened to a tropical depression, and degenerated into an extratropical low on August 24, 1992, over New Mexico. The storm's remnants later merged with the remnants of Hurricane Andrew and another frontal system on August 29.

Tropical Storm Barry (2007) Atlantic tropical storm in 2007

Tropical Storm Barry was a rapidly forming tropical cyclone that made landfall on Florida, United States, in early June 2007. The second named storm of the 2007 Atlantic hurricane season, Barry developed from a trough of low pressure in the southeastern Gulf of Mexico on June 1. It tracked rapidly northeastward, reaching peak winds of 60 mph (95 km/h) before weakening and making landfall near Tampa Bay as a tropical depression. Barry quickly lost tropical characteristics after wind shear removed much of the convection, and early on June 3 it completed the transition into an extratropical cyclone. The extratropical remnants tracked up the East Coast of the United States, and were absorbed by a larger extratropical cyclone on June 5.

Tropical Storm Octave (1983)

Tropical Storm Octave was considered the worst tropical cyclone in the history of Arizona. The origins of Tropical Storm Octave were from a tropical disturbance that formed south of the Gulf of Tehuantepec on September 23, 1983. Steered by a deep layer high over Mexico, the disturbance moved west for four days before becoming a tropical depression on September 27 off the southwest coast of Mexico. Over an area of warm sea surface temperatures, it was able to quickly strengthen to peak winds of 50 mph (85 km/h), through wind shear prevented much further development. By September 30, Octave was accelerating to the northeast, steadily weakening due to cooler waters. That day it weakened to tropical depression status, and on October 2, Octave dissipated.

Hurricane Joanne (1972) Category 2 Pacific hurricane in 1972

Hurricane Joanne was one of four tropical cyclones to bring gale-force winds to the Southwestern United States in the 20th century. A tropical depression developed on September 30, 1972. It then moved west northwest and intensified into a hurricane on October 1. Hurricane Joanne peaked as a Category 2 hurricane, as measured by the modern Saffir-Simpson hurricane wind scale (SSHWS), October 2. Joanne then slowed down and began to re-curve. Joanne made landfall along the northern portion of the Baja California Peninsula as a tropical storm. The tropical storm moved inland over Sonora on October 6 and was believed to have survived into Arizona as a tropical storm. In Arizona, many roads were closed and some water rescues had to be performed due to a prolonged period of heavy rains. One person was reportedly killed while another was electrocuted. A few weeks after the hurricane, Arizona would sustain additional flooding and eight additional deaths.

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