Monsoon storm clouds spent most of Saturday getting worked up before unleashing a barrage of rain, hail and wind throughout the Tucson area early in the evening.
The National Weather Service started issuing storm warnings for the area just before 4 p.m. By 5, the warnings were in full effect — flash floods, strong winds, severe thunderstorms — even hail reported in outlying areas.
Wind gusts of 60 mph were reported at the Tucson Mall on the north side.
As the storm blew through Vail and up into Tucson, a handful of red dots appeared on the Tucson Electric Power website’s “outage map.” As the storm moved northward, so did the dots, indicating outages into the Catalina Foothills and Casas Adobes areas.
And, before long, crews from the Tucson Fire Department were called to their first swift-water rescue of the evening.
A ladder truck was used about 5:30 p.m. to rescue two people trapped atop their SUV after trying unsuccessfully to cross Alamo Wash at Yale and Kenyon drives near East Broadway and South Wilmot Road, said Capt. Barrett Baker, spokesman for the Tucson Fire Department.
Crews threw flotation vests to the pair before lowering the ladder so they could climb across the wash to safety.
The crew was at the same location Saturday morning, running practice drills “for that specific type of rescue,” Baker said.
Soon after the first swift-water call came in, TFD crews were called to a second rescue after someone reported seeing a man under a bridge near North Romero and West Prince roads.
The first firefighters on scene heard someone under the bridge yelling, but by nightfall no one had been found, Baker said. Crews had to wait until the water receded before continuing the search.
Though washes were flooded for hours after the storm, by 6:30 p.m. the storm had mostly cleared out, leaving behind 74 percent humidity and sustenance for thirsty desert flora.
The highest rain totals from Saturday afternoon include:
- 2.36 inches in the Santa Catalina Mountains along Catalina Highway about a mile west of the Palisades Ranger Station.
- 0.79 of an inch at Agua Caliente Park at North Soldier Trail and East Roger Road.
- 0.91 of an inch at Ventana Canyon Wash and Sunrise Road.
- 1.06 inches at Rillito Creek and La Cholla Boulevard
- 1.20 inches at Pantano Wash and Houghton Road.
- 0.71 of an inch at the Pima County Fairgrounds off South Houghton Road.
- 1.06 inches in Arivaca.
- 0.67 of an inch at Pima Wash and Ina Road.
- 0.51 of an inch in Davidson Canyon about a quarter mile south of Interstate 10 in the Vail area.
- 2.36 inches at Keystone Peak in the Green Valley area.