Taking an innocent family vacation to the Grand Canyon typically isn’t a dangerous thing to do, especially if you follow the advice of the knowledgeable park rangers who watch over the park. Unfortunately, uncontrollable forces of nature can still throw things off-track. Luckily for visitors to the Grand Canyon, one of the most inconvenient weather patterns is fairly easy to predict, and with a little bit of forethought, you can be prepared.
Springtime is upon us, and that means Northern Arizona is about to become an extremely windy place. Now, while you don’t have to worry too much about being carried off by a rogue breeze, other effects of the wind such as dust storms and road closures might become an obstacle. Whether you’re headed to the Grand Canyon South Rim, North Rim, or Skywalk, here’s everything you need to know about these strong northwestern winds.
1.) Where do these winds come from?
Spring is a transitional time of year. Temperatures drastically fluctuate, plant life beings to wake, and the jet stream begins to flow north. Colder and more powerful low-pressure systems travel from the west or northwest, creating a dry southwest flow.
As these two fronts begin to meet, a pressure gradient develops, creating the perfect environment for consistent and powerful winds. Increased heat from the sun also contributes to turbulence, and as warmer air rises, colder and more powerful currents are forced closer to the ground.
2.) What are the windiest areas in Northern Arizona?
If you’re worried about road closures or powerful winds, be sure to avoid areas downwind of…
– Kaibab Plateu
– Doney Park
– Little Colorado River Valley
– Black Mesa and Chinle Valley
… And any other areas downwind of major mountain barriers. Mountains allow winds to accelerate because of a layer of stable air that sits higher in the atmosphere. As wind travels over the mountain, it moves through this stable air, using it to boost down the other side of the mountain.
3.) What are the dangers of high winds and how can I protect myself?
Don’t underestimate the power of winds, but at the same time, don’t let them scare you off. Spring dust storms are substantially larger than typical monsoon season storms, and visibility can be reduced to just a few feet in a bad enough storm, so it’s important to make sure that you have emergency supplies with you in the event that you get stuck. It’s inadvisable to drive with low visibility, and Interstate 40, Route 191, and Route 89 may be closed for long periods of time due to these storms. Have an alternate route ready to go if you plan on traveling any of these routes. Keep an eye on the Grand Canyon weather forecast and you should be able to prepare accordingly.
Another risk to consider is fire, because while there isn’t a wealth of vegetation in the desert, unrelenting winds create a perfect environment for uncontrollable wildfire. Something as simple as a cigarette butt may ignite some super-dry vegetation, so be sure to eliminate all risks of starting a wildfire.
April and May feature the strongest winds of the year with June and July following with more rain and much calmer winds. Preparation is key in making sure that these powerful winds don’t put a damper on your family’s trip to the canyon, so stay safe!
Check out the informative video embedded below.
Do you have any tips for making the most of a stormy situation? Let us know in the comments section below.