Southwest Monsoon

In this July 24, 2021, file photo, a man rides a boogie board in a flooded park in Scottsdale, Ariz. After two bone-dry years that sank the U.S. Southwest deeper into drought, this summer's rainy season unleashed with fury.


Region sees impressive rainfall during summer monsoon

FLAGSTAFF — Cities across the U.S. Southwest hit impressive rainfall totals this summer, bringing much-needed — but temporary — relief to a region that has been mired in drought.

The winter, however, could be disappointing, with an expected weather pattern that typically means less snowpack that rivers and streams rely on, weather experts said.

The annual rainy period known simply as "the monsoon" ended September with widespread precipitation across New Mexico and Arizona, including snow in higher elevations. The seasonal weather pattern starts in mid-June and brings high hopes for rain but doesn't always deliver.

This year, it did but not equitably.

Payson, about an hour and a half drive north of Phoenix, had more than twice its normal rainfall, logging it's wettest monsoon on record with nearly 15 inches. Farther east, Show Low's rain also hit a record 12.5 inches. In the desert of southern Arizona, Tucson recorded its third-wettest monsoon, with 12.7 inches.

Phoenix had the second-most days of measurable rain during the monsoon, with 23, one day short of the record of 24 days set in 1896.

New Mexico saw wide variability in this year's monsoon.

Albuquerque was still below average for the calendar year by about 2 inches. After dismal rain in August, the last gasps of the monsoon provided a big boost and put September closer to average.

The Four Corners area where Colorado, Utah, New Mexico and Arizona meet didn't fare nearly as well. It had below-average rainfall in general and remains in severe to extreme drought, according to the U.S. Drought Monitor.

Despite the rainfall, the Southwest is still trending toward hotter, drier weather because of climate change. Wide swings in weather also are possible.

QAnon figure says he's running for Congress

PHOENIX — Ron Watkins, a prolific promoter of false conspiracies about the 2020 election who is closely tied to the QAnon movement, says he is running for Congress as a Republican in Arizona.

Watkins has a large and fervent following among Donald Trump supporters who believe the former president's false claims that he lost the election because of fraud. His candidacy could shake up the race in one of the GOP's top congressional pickup targets.

"We must fix our elections from inside the machine."" Watkins says in the video posted online.

It's not clear whether Watkins currently lives in Arizona or its 1st Congressional District. Watkins was the longtime administrator of 8kun and its predecessor, 8chan, online message boards that were known for misinformation and hate speech, and which played a crucial role in seeding the QAnon conspiracy movement. He has said he gave up the role last year.

A core belief for QAnon followers is that Trump was secretly fighting a Satan-worshipping, child sex-trafficking cabal of prominent Democrats, Hollywood elites and "deep state" enemies.

Many believe Watkins himself is responsible for the messages purportedly posted by an internet poster called Q. He denies it.

Arizona's 1st District, one spanning vast swaths of rural northern and eastern portions of the state, is a top pickup target for Republicans. The boundaries are still being drawn by the state's independent redistricting commission, but it's widely believed the district will be one of the state's most competitive.

Incumbent Democrat Tom O'Halleran is a former Republican and a retired police officer serving his third term.


Governor defends power to spend pandemic relief

SANTA FE — Democratic Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham is defending her authority to decide how the state will spend more than $1 billion federal pandemic aid — without the approval of the legislature.

In a written court briefing Oct. 15, Lujan Grisham said a state Supreme Court decision nearly 50 years ago upheld the governor's discretion over federal funding at universities and should hold true today more broadly regarding federal pandemic relief funds.

Republican Senate minority leader Gregory Baca of Belen and Democratic Sen. Jacob Candelaria of Albuquerque have asked the Supreme Court to intervene and rein in the governor's authority to spend without legislative approval.

POINT | Yes on 78; nix exec. branch slush funds
COUNTERPOINT | No on 78; it will sow dysfunction

Lujan Grisham, who is running for reelection in 2022, has used the relief funds to replenish the state unemployment insurance trust, underwrite millions of dollars in sweepstakes prizes for people who got vaccinated, prop up agriculture wages amid a shortage of chile pickers and provide incentives for the unemployed to return to work. Decisions are pending on more than $1 billion in federal relief.

New Mexico's state treasurer says a close reading of the state constitution shows that the legislature should help determine how to spend a recent round of pandemic relief signed by President Joe Biden in March.


State launches ad campaign with $10M in CARES Act cash

OMAHA — Nebraska is launching a new, $10 million ad campaign using federal coronavirus relief money to try to lure people from other states and fill jobs amid a severe worker shortage, Gov. Pete Ricketts announced Oct. 18.

Ricketts unveiled a 104-second ad that will be chopped into segments and aired in major media markets within 500 miles of Nebraska, including Minneapolis, Kansas City, Denver and Chicago, as well as in Austin, Texas and Silicon Valley.

The ad features numerous clips of people working in high-tech jobs, enjoying the outdoors, and buying $225,000 houses. Actor Adam Devine, an Omaha native, riffs on the the state's slogan, "Nebraska, the good life," by talking about all the "good" things the state offers.

Ricketts defended the use of federal pandemic relief money to pay for the spot, arguing that the funding was intended to help state economies and noting that other states have used their share for similar ad campaigns.

Nebraska has been struggling for years to attract skilled workers to fill jobs in health care, manufacturing and other major industries. The state now has a 2.2% unemployment rate, the lowest both nationally and in state history, and has more job openings than people who are on unemployment.

Anthony Goins, the director of Nebraska's Department of Economic Development, said the $225,000 home prices were shown to appeal to residents of larger cities where housing is much more expensive.


Kanye West puts ranch, business sites up for sale

CODY — Rapper, music producer and clothing entrepreneur Kanye West has put his ranch and business properties in northwestern Wyoming up for sale.

The West Ranch, formerly known as Monster Lake Ranch, went on the market Oct. 11 for $11 million. The property sprawls across six square miles of open land and tree-studded hills and outcrops about six miles south of Cody.

The property features lakes, a lodge, commercial kitchen, equipment sheds, horse facility, corrals and go-kart track, according to the DBW Realty listing.

The listing came days after West listed his seven commercial properties in Cody for more than $3.2 million, the Cody Enterprise reported.

The ranch, which leases additional land owned by the U.S. government, listed for $13.3 million before West bought it in 2019 though it's unknown how much he paid for the property. Wyoming law does not provide for public disclosure of real estate sale amounts.

West moved from California to Wyoming in 2019 and set about basing at least some of his clothing business in Cody, a city of about 10,000 on the eastern approach to Yellowstone National Park. Last year, he ran for president as an unaffiliated candidate.

West, 44, filed this year to legally change his name to his nickname, Ye, and is in the midst of a divorce from Kim Kardashian West. They have four children together.

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