More Storms May Hit the Valley as Thousands Continue to Reel From Monday’s Microburst

Almost 36 hours after the microburst that exploded over downtown Phoenix and Tempe brought high winds, hail, dust, and more than an inch of rain in some locations, residents and city governments are still in recovery mode — thousands are still without power, dozens of intersection traffic lights are dark, and tree branches and other debris still litter sidewalks and lawns.

The good news is that city department officials and electric companies are working, as a spokeswoman for Phoenix Public Works Department put it, “around the clock with all hands on deck” to restore storm-related damage. The not-so-good news is that, according to meteorologist Marvin Percha of the National Weather Service in Phoenix, more storms are on the horizon.

“It looks like we’re going to have an uptick in activity as moisture returns and weather disturbances move over the region,” he says. “I can’t say we’re going to have another storm like Monday’s, but there could be some strong winds and heavy downpours with these storms.”

According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, parts of the East Valley — particularly the Fountain Hills — experienced sporadic thunderstorms early Wednesday morning, though the activity seemed to dissipate by 5 a.m.

Percha goes on to explain that what residents experienced Monday night was not at all atypical for this time of year. What made it unique was that it “hit the heart" of the Valley and, therefore, caused a lot of damage.

“If this happened out in the open desert, it wouldn’t make the news,” he says.
Looking ahead at a forecast of more storms can be daunting, particularly for those still living without electricity — reports of rotted refrigerator food and hot, sleepless nights abound on social media.

As of 5 a.m. this morning, the Arizona Public Service Company had restored power to 47,000 residents but that about 3,000 homes are still without it, Arizona Public Service Company spokeswoman Anna Haberlein says.

A Salt River Project representative could not be reached, but the company’s online outage map shows that some residents still are waiting for power:

Compare to a map of outages from 12 hours earlier:

Also on the ground and leading the cleanup effort are Phoenix’s Public Works, Parks and Recreation, and Street Transportation departments. Employees and hired contractors are working to clear the streets of dangerous obstructions and debris to get the city back to normal.

Yvette Roeder, with Public Works, explains that her department’s main focus has been clearing streets of trees, branches, and sediment buildup; strategically placing huge roll-off bins for residents and city employees to dump storm-related debris (click here for bin locations); vacuuming flood water; and fixing downed traffic signals.

As of Tuesday evening, at least 50 intersections in downtown Phoenix still had dark traffic signals. (Roeder reminds drivers to approach such intersections like four-way stops.) And most street closures have been reversed.

"We had to close some streets or long stretches of road because of live wires from downed power poles,” she explains.

Gregg Bach, with Parks and Recreation, says his department has 17 employees from its forestry division out helping with the cleanup — they are removing debris, and Public Works is taking it to dumps – but he adds that their work will continue long after the cleanup is done. The department is charged with keeping inventory of trees on city property and will work with its arborist to select and plant new ones in the coming weeks.

Roeder, Bach, and Monica Hernandez from the Street Transportation Department say it’s too early to tell how much a storm like Monday’s will cost the city, but estimates are in the millions of dollars. (During a similar storm last year, Roeder says the Public Works Department spent about $7.5 million on cleanup but adds that some of that money was covered by insurance..)

Meteorological maps related to the storm can be seen on the Phoenix NOAA website.

Below are more pictures from the storm:

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Miriam is a staff writer at Phoenix New Times.
Contact: Miriam Wasser