By Linda Kor
El Niño is here and according to the National Weather Service, we’ll be feeling the affects of it all the way through next spring.
El Niño occurs when a band of warm ocean water develops off the Pacific coast of South America, creating high air pressure in the western Pacific and low air pressure in the eastern Pacific. The result is weather patterns ranging from cooler, wetter weather in the southern states to warmer temperatures in the northern states.
According to Cory Mottice, meteorologist for the Flagstaff office of the National Weather Service, the effects of El Niño are already present in northeastern Arizona. “We have precipitation records going back to 1915 and from the beginning of October through the 28th, this is the 12th highest amount of rainfall on record for the Winslow area in October,” he explained. Winslow’s rainfall for that period was 1.38”, which is the largest amount of precipitation since 2000 and an inch more than last year.
Mottice was also quick to note that while wetter weather is likely, it doesn’t necessarily mean more snow. “With El Niño there is a very good chance of above normal precipitation, but snowfall depends on temperature and we can’t predict that,” he said.
The Navajo County Public Works Department isn’t taking any chances and is already making preparations for a rough winter, equipping trucks with snow blades and cinder spreaders, and stockpiling cinder material throughout the county.
According to Public Works Director Eric Oscarson, in the event of a significant snowfall, Navajo County crewmembers will work in 12-hour shifts to maintain snow removal around-the-clock, with snow removal starting after a 4” accumulation of snow. Generally, residents can expect windrows to be removed within 48 to 72 hours after the storm has passed.
As far as wet winter travel, the Arizona Department of Transportation encourages all drivers to winterize their vehicles with good winter tires with adequate tread. In preparation for a snowstorm it is suggested that drivers keep food, water and an emergency kit in the trunk.
For more details on ways to be prepared for winter travel, visit the Arizona Emergency Information Network at https://ein.az.gov/.