The persistent heat wave that has suffocated Phoenix for most of July was slightly easing Thursday after the first major monsoon storm of the season kicked up dust and high winds and brought the first measurable rainfall in some areas since March.
The Wednesday night storm, featuring high winds hitting over 60 mph (96.5 kph), ripped the roofs and awnings off numerous manufactured homes in Mesa. It even lifted the roof of a small one-story apartment building in that Phoenix suburb, pushing the overnight low below 90 degrees Fahrenheit (32.2 degrees Celsius) for the first time in 16 days.
“The heat wave is not over yet,” said Tom Frieders, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Phoenix. “It will continue to be hot, but we're hoping that once we get beyond Saturday it will start to cool off.”
The Wednesday night storm brought heavy dust, lightning and rainfall of 0.25 inches (0.63 cm) to 1 inch (2.54 cm) in some locations, according to the Maricopa County Flood Control District. No injuries were reported, but some people in that area temporarily lost power when utility poles were knocked down. Scores of trees were toppled across the region.
Despite the storm, an excessive heat warning remained in effect for Phoenix through Saturday night. The high was forecast to hit 115 degrees Fahrenheit (46.1 degrees Celsius) on Thursday, and temperatures were expected to remain above 110 degrees Fahrenheit (43.3 degrees Celsius) at least through Sunday. By Monday, the high was forecast to fall to 108 degrees Fahrenheit (42.2 degrees Celsius).
In the meantime, isolated scattered thunderstorms are possible across south-central Arizona for the rest of this week, with brief, localized downpours and blowing dust that could reduce visibility. Possible hazards from thunderstorms are expected to increase over the weekend and into next week. Until then, the heat will remain extremely dangerous, Frieders said.
Heat-associated deaths have continued to rise in recent weeks, with seven more confirmed in Maricopa County, home to Phoenix, as of Saturday. That brought the county's total confirmed for the year so far to 25. There were 425 confirmed heat-associated deaths in the county of nearly 4.5 million last year.