Most of the time our weather in Arizona is predictable with lots of sunshine and clear skies. But, every year during our two wet seasons of late summer and January/February, floods occur. Along with the floods come reports of loss of life and property. People who are new to Arizona often are not prepared for these events and do not have a backup plan.
People are often surprised by the scope of damage floods in Arizona can cause. Over the years there have been many notable floods.
The Great Flood of Arizona occurred in February 1891. The Salt River swelled to 18 feet deep and 3 miles wide. The flood took the Tempe railroad bridge with it and swept away homes.
Winter floods of 1993 brought record rainfalls and record water flow throughout the state. The losses included the Gillespie Dam in Phoenix and the Mill Ave Bridge in Tempe. Pima county experienced major flooding that isolated thousands of people in their homes and the dike broke in Duncan leaving 150 people homeless.
In addition to mega storms, localized flooding of roads and washes is a common occurrence during seasonal rains and just as dangerous if not regarded with respect.
Mesa was cut off from the rest of the Valley on Sept. 9, 2014, when the remnants of a tropical hurricane dropped 5½ inches, causing Mesa to flood.
In 2018, Interstate 10 was closed in both directions as flood waters covered the highway at the 43rd Avenue exit. Cars were abandoned in the middle of the highway as people escaped to higher ground.
Plan and be prepared
If a monsoon storm is in your area, uphill from you or on its way, stay home if you can. Avoid the risk of flooding streets and downed power lines by waiting for the storm to pass. Arizona storms generally pass quickly.
It pays to think through emergency situations before they happen. It is even better to take it one step further and prepare for those emergencies. Make a plan and share it with the family, making sure everyone is on the same page.
The majority of us have never faced a major crisis or natural disaster that has left us without local resources.
Also, never cross flowing washes. Never. The flow of water will subside in time and there will be a better time to cross.
Keep a “bug out” bag in your vehicle. This is a bag equipped with everything you might need should you need to wait out a flooded road crossing, monsoon dust storm or experience a vehicle breakdown.
Always have a map or Arizona atlas and gazetteer in your car as GPS and cell services could be down during a storm.
Your home insurance policy may not cover flash flooding. In fact, if water enters your home from the outside, it will not automatically be covered. It doesn’t matter whether the water is from flash flooding or a neighbor who accidentally diverted water to your yard, any water or mud damage in your home will not be covered unless you bought flood insurance.
“If you’re in a possible flood plain, you’re eligible for federal flood insurance and your mortgage company will require you to buy it,” said Clay Jansen of Phocus Insurance Group. The price varies depending on the kind of risk your home has.
Before buying a home, check with your real estate agent. You might also want to check FEMA’s National Flood Insurance Program website (www.floodsmart.gov) to see what the risk is in your area.