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May has been wet in Arizona but will provide only short-term drought help

PHOENIX — A climate expert said a wet month of May will only bring short-term relief from the drought.

May 15 will be a day to remember for the heavy snowfall in the high country. For only the fourth time since 1895 Phoenix had rainfall on that date.

But while a wetter-than-normal month of May comes as welcome surprise, University of Arizona climate expert Mike Crimmins said it will only bring brief drought relief.

Crimmins said it took years for Arizona to reach this point and it could take years of big storms to end it.

“It will help reduce the immediate threat of wildfire and a little bit with water resources but on the flip side, we’re not out of the long term drought by any means yet,” he said.

A heavy snowpack in the mountains would go a long way toward correcting the problem. This year’s snowpack ranged from 25 to 50 percent of normal. Arizona hasn’t had a strong winter since 2009-2010.

“We’re already looking to next winter to see if we can get snowpack to help drive reservoir levels back up,” Crimmins said.

This month’s storms were the result of El Nino (the warming of the Pacific Ocean), Crimmins said.

It’s a mixed bag how El Nino events impacted the monsoon.

“Some El Nino events have caused the monsoon to start late but a couple of them started right on time,” Crimmins said.

The remnants of Hurricane Norbert swamped Phoenix with record rainfall for a single day last September, flooding freeways and homes.

The National Weather Service recorded 3.29 inches of rain at Sky Harbor, by far the most precipitation received in one day in the city.

The previous record was 2.91 inches in 1939. Chandler recorded 5.63 inches, while Mesa had 4.41 inches.