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Mon, Sept. 21

Spring one of the driest on record in Williams with no rain in sight

Monsoon season officially started June 15, but there's no rain in sight after one of the driest springs on record in Williams.

Williams last got rain May 7-10, according to Robert Bohlin, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Bellemont. The total amount of rain for that four-day period was 0.3 of an inch.

"Typically Williams averages about 0.58 of an inch in the month of May," Bohlin said. "So you basically got half of what you normally get for May."

The dry conditions are similar throughout the region. The state is in a severe drought, Bohlin said.

This year the period from mid March to mid June in Flagstaff was one of the three driest years for that period in the past 115 years.

"We've seen about 50-60 percent of the total precipitation we normally see since the beginning of the year," Bohlin said. "So we're definitely on the drier side across northern Arizona."

Bohlin said storm systems this spring didn't produce a lot of precipitation, but said meteorologists can't pinpoint a specific reason for the lack of moisture.

A high-pressure system this week may bring clouds to central and southern parts of the state, but no rain is in the forecast, Bohlin said.

The monsoon season lasts from June 15 to Sept. 30, but Bohlin said predicting when the region will actually receive rainfall is difficult.

"There's just no good scientific basis for predicting that very far into the future," he said.

And even after the monsoons start, lightening can still pose a threat because of the dry conditions.

"The challenge is when the monsoon first starts to ramp up, it's still very dry in the lowest level of the atmosphere, and so you can have a situation where the lightening will strike outside of any precipitation, which can cause fire starts," Bohlin said.

This week, the Kaibab National Forest moved to an extreme fire danger rating, which is the highest level.

Extreme fire danger means that fires start quickly, spread furiously, and burn intensely. All fires are potentially serious. Direct attack of fires is rarely possible for firefighters and may be dangerous except immediately after ignition.

In 1974, the Forest Service, Bureau of Land Management and state forestry organizations established a standard adjective description for five levels of fire danger - Low, Moderate, High, Very High, and Extreme.

To reduce the risk of human-caused wildfire, Kaibab National Forest officials implemented stage II fire restrictions June 19. Stage I fire restrictions started on May 22. The new restrictions prohibit the following: building a fire, campfire, charcoal, coal, or stove fire, including fires in developed campgrounds and improved sites; smoking, except within an enclosed vehicle or building; discharging a firearm, air rifle, or gas gun, except while engaged in a lawful hunt pursuant to state, federal, or tribal laws and regulations; operating any internal combustion engine from 9 a.m. to 8 p.m.; and welding or operating acetylene or other torches with an open flame.

Exemptions to the restrictions include the following: using a device fueled solely by liquid petroleum or LPG fuels that can be turned on and off, which can only be used in an area that is barren or cleared of all overhead and surrounding flammable materials within three feet of the device; operating generators with an approved spark arresting device within an enclosed vehicle or building or in an area that is barren or cleared of all overhead and surrounding flammable materials within three feet of the generator; and operating motorized vehicles in compliance with forest Travel Management regulations.

Forest managers have also closed the Bill Williams Mountain Watershed on the Williams Ranger District to public entry. The closure area is bounded to the east by Fourth Street and County Road 73, to the south by Forest Service Road (FSR) 122, to the west by FSR 108 and to the north by Interstate 40.

More information is available at www.fs.usda.gov/kaibab.

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