Monsoon Stories 2021: What It Means To Be An Arizonan

By Lauren Gilger
Published: Friday, September 17, 2021 - 2:00pm
Updated: Friday, September 17, 2021 - 2:02pm

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Lightning in Phoenix
Christina Estes/KJZZ
Lightning in Phoenix on Aug. 28, 2019.

As the Southwest region is getting hotter and drier, monsoon storms are predicted to become more intermittent — and more extreme.

As one climate modeler said, it’s risk compounded upon risk in a climate change world.

→ 'No Safe Place On The Planet From Heat': Extreme Heat Is Becoming National Issue

So far this season, The Show has looked at the effects of the changing monsoon on our cities, our growth, our wildlife and how we grow food here.

Now we turn to something a little less concrete: What a changing monsoon means for our state’s identity, and what it means to be an Arizonan.

Listener Memories

To live in the Arizona desert means a lot of different things to a lot of different people.

Some are deeply connected to the land and its history, while others come from somewhere else entirely.

“We moved here 18 years ago from Cleveland, Ohio. And we were absolutely astounded at the ferocity of the storms," Kathy McAvoy said.

McAvoy is one of the many KJZZ listeners who called The Show and left a voicemail telling us about their monsoon memories.

“My husband and I would watch the storms from our back patio. We would sit outside under the overhang, protected from the rain, and we lived in a preserve lots over in our two key," McAvoy said. "And it was remarkable to see lightning to hear that kind of thunder …”

But memories often become about more than the rain and thunder and lightning.

“But since my husband died — it'll be three years ago on [Labor Day] — the storm memories are good ones," McAvoy said. "There are times that I spent with him. It's a time of wonder and relaxation, and they're wonderful memories.”

Poet Laureate Alberto Ríos

The monsoon storms often stand out in our experience as Arizonans. Maybe it’s the lack of other recognizable seasons. The rains serve as markers in our memories the way the snow or the falling leaves might in other parts of the country.

And this holds true for countless transplants, like McAvoy and native Arizonans like state poet laureate Alberto Ríos.

Rios grew up in Nogales, where the monsoon storms played an oversize role in his memory. The Show talked with Ríos about his memories and what the monsoon means to Arizona — for better or worse.

This story was produced by KJZZ's Kaely Monahan.

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