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El Nino could return to Arizona next winter

PHOENIX -- Federal forecasters say the Pacific Ocean waters are getting ready to warm up and that could mean great news for the Southwest.

The last major El Nino event in Arizona, which was the winter of 2009 and 2010, hammered the Valley with several powerful rainstorms and brought heavy snowfall to the high country. In January 2010, Flagstaff was isolated for several days when all of the interstates were closed. Dan Leins with the National Weather Service says there's no guarantee that we will see a repeat performance.

"We could certainly use it," Leins said. "We've certainly had a couple of dry winters. Any sign of rain on the horizon is a good thing. It's just too early to tell if this upcoming winter is going to be wet or dry."

Arizona Snowbowl had 325 inches of snow during the last El Nino, which was described by some experts as El Nino on steroids.

The National Oceanic Atmospheric and Administration Thursday issued an official El Nino watch. NOAA Climate Prediction Center director Mike Halpert said the warming should be in place this summer.

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About the Author


Position: Senior News Reporter. Started with KTAR July 4, 1999.

Favorite spots in Arizona: Pinetop-Lakeside, Alpine, Greer.

Have covered some of the biggest stories in Arizona including nine of the top 10 largest wildfires in state history. The Wallow Fire in 2011 became the largest fire in state history. Rodeo-Chediski Fire in June 2002, which is the second largest fire in Arizona. Covered the Yarnell Hill Tragedy in June 2013 that left 19 Granite Mountain Hotshots dead.

Favorite movies: True Grit, both 1969 John Wayne classic and the remake with Jeff Bridges and Lonesome Dove.

Sports Teams: Washington State University Cougars, Texas Longhorns, The University of Montana Grizzlies.

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