Storm Information

El Niño: Expect Wet Weather


Phoenix area will experience a wetter than normal start to 2016 thanks to El Niño. The Climate Prediction Center forecasts better than a 60% chance of a wetter than normal time period of January through March. This is expected to be one of the strongest recorded El Niño episodes since 1950.

The city’s emergency responders are on standby, trained and ready to respond to significant weather incidents. Phoenix’s Duty Officer monitors weather conditions around the clock, and is prepared to alert citywide teams about critical weather situations. In addition, the Public Works and Street Transportation Departments have crews ready to respond to assist residents 24/7.


For Streets issues: 602-262-6441
For Hauling Away Storm Debris: 602-534-2222


Each El Niño has a somewhat different “flavor” and even among the strongest episodes, there are notable differences in precipitation amounts and placement. Fortunately, despite typical greater than average precipitation, past strong El Niño events have not produced significant flooding events in Arizona and Southeast California (not saying that it couldn’t happen this year). Seasonal mountain snowfall also carries considerable uncertainty, though all the 3 strongest events led to above average snow in Arizona.

What We Know:

  • Strong El Niño conditions will exist through winter 2015-16.
  • This will be one of the strongest recorded El Niño episodes since 1950.
  • Strong El Niño conditions typically lead to increased rainfall in Arizona and Southern California.
  • Odds clearly points towards a wetter than average winter – especially the latter parts of the season.


  • Each El Niño is slightly different and there are other weather influences to consider.
  • There have only been 6 recorded strong El Niño events and only 3 as strong as this year since 1950.
  • The small sample size of comparative El Niño events limits more certainty in specific winter predictions.

   What We Don’t know:

  • Even though odds strongly point towards a wet winter, we do not know whether it will be just above average or much above average.
  • Mountain snowfall may or may not be above average depending on snow levels during the winter.


El Niño is characterized by unusually warm ocean temperatures in the Equatorial Pacific, as opposed to La Niña, which characterized by unusually cold ocean temperatures in the Equatorial Pacific. El Niño is an oscillation of the ocean-atmosphere system in the tropical Pacific having important consequences for weather around the globe.

Among these consequences are increased rainfall across the southern tier of the US and in Peru, which has caused destructive flooding, and drought in the West Pacific, sometimes associated with devastating brush fires in Australia. Observations of conditions in the tropical Pacific are considered essential for the prediction of short term (a few months to 1 year) climate variations. Click graphic to see larger version of El Niño Winters to Average Winter Rainfall illustration.


What actions to take when you receive a flood watch or warning alert from the National Weather Service for your local area and what to do before, during, and after a flood.

 Basic Safety Tips

  • Turn Around, Don’t Drown!
  •  Avoid walking or driving through flood waters.
  • Just 6 inches of moving water can knock you down, and 2 feet of water can sweep your vehicle away.
  • If there is a chance of flash flooding, move immediately to higher ground.

Flash Floods are the #1 Cause of Weather-Related Deaths in the US.

  • If floodwaters rise around your car but the water is not moving, abandon the car and move to higher ground. Do not leave the car and enter moving water.
  • Avoid camping or parking along streams, rivers, and creeks during heavy rainfall. These areas can flood quickly and with little warning. Flood Watch = “Be Aware.” Conditions are right for flooding to occur in your area.
  • Turn on your TV/radio. You will receive the latest weather updates and emergency instructions.
  • Know where to go. You may need to reach higher ground quickly and on foot.
  • Build or restock your emergency preparedness kit. Include a flashlight, batteries, cash, and first aid supplies.

Prepare Your Home

  • Bring in outdoor furniture and move important indoor items to the highest possible floor. This will help protect them from flood damage.
  • Disconnect electrical appliances and don't touch electrical equipment if you are wet or standing in water. You could be electrocuted.
  • If instructed, turn off your gas and electricity at the main switch or valve. This helps prevent fires and explosions. Flood warning Flood Warning = "Take Action!" Flooding is either happening or will happen shortly.

Steps to Take

  • Move immediately to higher ground or stay on high ground.
  • Evacuate if directed.
  • Avoid walking or driving through flood waters. Turn Around, Don’t Drown! Just 6 inches of moving water can knock you down and 2 feet of water can sweep your vehicle away.

After a Flood

  • Return home only when authorities say it is safe.
  • Be aware of areas where floodwaters have receded and watch out for debris. Floodwaters often erode roads and walkways.
  • Do not attempt to drive through areas that are still flooded.
  • Avoid standing water as it may be electrically charged from underground or downed power lines.
  • Photograph damage to your property for insurance purposes. When it is not flooding: Make a flood plan
  • Know your flood risk.
  • Make a flood emergency plan.
  • Build or restock your emergency preparedness kit, including a flashlight, batteries, cash, and first aid supplies.
  • Consider buying flood insurance.
  • Familiarize yourself with local emergency plans. Know where to go and how to get there should you need to get to higher ground, the highest level of a building, or to evacuate.
  • Stay tuned to your phone alerts, TV, or radio for weather updates, emergency instructions, or evacuation orders.


Alert: Flood Information

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