CATALINA — Flash flooding hit parts of Arizona hard Wednesday afternoon as monsoon rain inundated burn-scarred ground, leading to at least one heart-pounding rescue that was caught on camera near Tucson.
As the rain washed through the Flagstaff area, roads became impassable, and resembled raging rivers, video showed. Floodwaters were so powerful in one Flagstaff neighborhood, a Toyota Prius was seen in sensational footage being carried down a residential street like a toy, the Arizona Republic reported.
In Catalina, which is near the Pinal-Pima County line north of Tucson, raging floodwaters engulfed a car, forcing a man and his two young daughters to take shelter on the roof of the vehicle. Rescuers were eventually able to help them to safety and the entire scene was captured in aerial footage by the Golder Ranch Fire District.
Officials said that "no one was hurt and everyone went home safe" after the incident in Catalina.
Thursday morning a fast-moving storm moved through Casa Grande and Pinal County.
The brief storm dumped about a half an inch to an inch of rain in various parts of Casa Grande, Marvin Percha, a meteorologist from the National Weather Service in Phoenix said.
Pinal County residents can expect a 30% chance of rain Thursday afternoon and Friday, he said. The chance of rain increases to about 40 to 50% starting Sunday and into next week.
The area devastated by the Museum Fire in 2019 near Flagstaff received just over one inch of rain Wednesday, according to an advisory on Coconino County’s website. Areas outside of the burn scar were drenched with more than 2.5 inches of rain.
Coconino County, which is located in north-central Arizona, issued a shelter in place in response to the flooding. Residents who were outdoors were urged to head to high ground immediately, according to the county.
The National Weather Service (NWS) issued a flash flood warning for about 83,000 residents in east Flagstaff that stretched until 5:45 p.m.
Tuesday brought more than 2 inches of rain in the Museum Fire burn scar. The floodwaters, which were about 1 foot deep in the Sunnyside area, washed away debris and shuttered streets -- including Route 66, according to the Arizona Emergency Information Network.
The heavy rain also comes about a month after Phoenix broke a daily heat record at 118 degrees Fahrenheit.
Burn scars, like those left behind from the Museum Fire, can worsen the impacts of heavy rain.
“Any time major fires burn large expanses of land, heavy storms bring an increase in flooding, mudslides and debris flows in and near the burn scar,” AccuWeather Senior Meteorologist Ken Clark said.
The fire burns the soil, which can no longer absorb water after a blaze, acting as a “repellent” just like “pavement,” according to the NWS. That’s why it doesn’t take much rain to trigger damaging flooding.
In many cases, it takes up to two years for vegetation to grow back in the burn scar. “The big thing is people that live near these burn scar regions have to be more prepared than usual for potential for flooding, mudslides and debris flows,” Clark told AccuWeather.
Rina Torchinsky is an AccuWeather staff writer