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Arizona Drought Marches on Despite Record Rain in Phoenix

Historic Rainfall Swamps the Southwest 1:26

The deluge Monday that left Phoenix awash was unprecedented, but don’t conclude it signals the end of Arizona’s drought, climatologists said. More than 3 inches fell, beating a mark that had stood since 1895, according to the National Weather Service in Phoenix. The problem for water managers, said Randy Cerveny, a climatologist at Arizona State University in Phoenix, is that much of that rain disappeared down rivers into the Gulf of California — perhaps providing for short-term plant growth but doing little to fill the reservoirs that supply the growing metropolis.

A long-term water solution will only be found in a healthy snowpack that's repeated for several years, said Cerveny, who focuses on weather records and is the author of “Weather’s Greatest Mysteries Solved.” That's because snowpack slowly releases its water during the spring melt, allowing reservoirs to collect it. An El Nino in the Pacific, with corresponding snow and rain, is possible this winter, he said. Monday’s dump came courtesy of Tropical Storm Norbert. Cerveny noted the last time a Pacific hurricane had a similar effect: In 1997, Nora brought 5 inches of rain to western Arizona. The current drought began in 1998 and the state has seen only a couple of wet years since.

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— Gil Aegerter