Torrential rain from the remnants of a Pacific Ocean hurricane swamped the Desert Southwest Monday, with Phoenix and Tucson seeing some of the worst flooding. Rain and floods were also reported in southern California.
In Phoenix, the rain turned freeways into lakes and forced the closure of highways, streets and schools throughout the region.
In Tucson, one woman died after her car was swept away by heavy floods and became trapped against a bridge.
Monday was the rainiest single day in the history of Phoenix, where weather records go back to 1895.
More rain was in the forecast for Monday night and early Tuesday.
Phoenix Sky Harbor Airport recorded 3.29 inches of rain, which broke the all-time calendar day record total of 2.91 inches, the National Weather Service reported.
That record was set in 1933.
Gov. Jan Brewer ordered non-essential state employees to stay home Monday and she declared a "statewide emergency for areas impacted by today's severe rainfall and flooding."
School administrators throughout the Valley canceled and delayed classes as a result of the massive storm.
The 3 inches of rain is more than the Arizona capital usually gets in the entire three months of July, August and September.
Channel 12 meteorologist James Quiñones said already the region was coping with the biggest flood in 44 years.
The rain was due in part to the remnants of eastern Pacific Hurricane Norbert. These tropical-type storms occur only once every five to 10 years in Arizona and result in prolonged, widespread rain. Monsoon storms, by comparison, are shorter and much more isolated.
"This is pretty historic, what we're seeing," said Randy Cerveny, a weather expert and professor of geological sciences at Arizona State University.
The storm system brought a rare, brief rainfall to Los Angeles and parts of Southern California, and heavier amounts caused flash flooding on highways in desert and other inland areas.
Around Palm Springs, more than 40 water-related rescues were reported Monday morning and at least one school was evacuated because of flooding, The Desert Sun reported. A slow-moving thunderstorm knocked out power in some areas and created a traffic mess on heavily traveled Interstate 10.
California Highway Patrol spokesman Mike Radford said the rain left "tons of debris" on highways and flooded side roads throughout the Coachella Valley desert.
"This is definitely one of the worst storms I've seen'' in the valley, Radford told The Desert Sun.
Parts of five western states -- California, Arizona, Nevada, Utah and Colorado -- were under flood watches or warnings as of late afternoon, the National Weather Service reported.