FLAGSTAFF, Ariz. (AP) - Workers and residents in Flagstaff were assessing damage, clearing away debris and cleaning up Wednesday from a flood caused by historic levels of rain that fell on a burn scar from a large wildfire two years ago.
The storm on Aug. 17 caused damage to at least 24 homes in the northern Arizona city, officials said.
Ruben Ceballos, who lives near where water came off the burn scar left by the Museum Fire, was trying to clean up one of his properties on Aug. 18.
"I’ve been here 81 years and I’ve seen rain storms and floods, but nothing like these two last ones," said Ceballos.
School district officials survey damage from storm
Killip Elementary School (Flagstaff Unified School District)
Water and mud made their way into classrooms and hallways at Killip Elementary School. Classes were called off on Wednesday, with plans to move children into remote learning next week, the school said in a statement.
No injuries were reported.
According to officials, about 300 children were brought to the gym to watch a movie when the water and mud started coming in.
"We responded to it keeping the level of concern as low as we possibly could, letting the kids know they were safe, we were here for them, and we’d be eventually getting them home," said Killip Elementary School Principal Joe Gutierrez.
Rain described as "200 to 500 year rainfall event"
Hourly precipitation of more than 3 inches (7.6 cm) Tuesday along the southern part of the scar was described by a flood control district as a "200 to 500 year rainfall event." Lesser, but still significant levels of rain were recorded in other areas of the water-repellent scar.
The fast-moving water poured into neighborhoods and rushed past houses protected by sandbags.
The United Way is organizing a volunteer event on Saturday to help clear flood debris house-by-house, and fill sandbags to "prepare for the next rain," said District Supervisor Patrice Horstman in a Zoom meeting that was rescheduled into the evening due to rain forecasted Wednesday afternoon.
Another round of thunderstorms was forecast Wednesday in northern Arizona.
Flooding takes toll on community
Heavy flooding last month caused about $5 million in damage to local public infrastructure like storm drains and roads.
In the Zoom meeting, city leaders discussed unfunded and yet-to-be designed plans for flood protection infrastructure and said they are seeking federal funding.
"Unfortunately, it takes a natural disaster for people to listen to the potential for a national disaster," said mayor Paul Deasy.
Heavy rainfall has been pretty regular in the area since mid-July, when Flagstaff residents saw the first flooding after the start of Arizona’s annual monsoon season.
- Call 511 anywhere in Arizona or 1-888-411-ROAD (7623)
Rain/flood safety tips
The American Red Cross' tips for heavy rain situations and flood safety:
- Turnaround don’t drown! If you must drive and you encounter a flooded roadway, turn around and go another way.
- If you are caught on a flooded road and waters are rising rapidly around you, get out of the car quickly and move to higher ground.
- Tune in to your local radio, NOAA radio, or news channels for the latest updates.
- If your neighborhood is prone to flooding, be prepared to evacuate quickly.
- Follow evacuation orders and do not attempt to return until officials say it is safe.
- If power lines are down, do not step in puddles or standing water.
- If power is out, use a flashlight. Do not use any open flame as alternate lighting.
Preparing for a severe thunderstorm
The American Red Cross' tips for preparing for a severe thunderstorm:
- Put together an emergency kit.
- Know your community’s evacuation plan.
- Create a household disaster plan and practice it.
- Purchase a battery-powered or hand-crank radio
- Discuss thunderstorm safety with members of your household. Be aware that a thunderstorm could produce flooding.
- Pick a safe place in your home for household members to gather during a thunderstorm. This should be a place where there are no windows, skylights, or glass doors, which could be broken by strong winds or hail and cause damage or injury.
Be prepared and stay safe during the monsoon
"Most Valley residents know how quickly and furiously storms can move in and out, bringing strong winds, dust, rain, and flash flooding. These storms can cause interruptions in services, such as water, power, and gas," stated Captain Ashley Losch of the Glendale Fire Department.
GFD reminds residents of ways they can be prepared and stay safe:
- Have flashlights with extra batteries on hand.
- Have food that can be prepared without the need for cooking or refrigeration.
- Have at least one gallon of clean water for each person in the household.
- Have backup power for anyone requiring power for a medical device.
- Have backup power for cell phones that do not require charging.
- Have a first aid kit ready and accessible.
- Never drive into areas with flowing water; it takes less than 10 inches to wash a car away.
- Avoid flooded areas, such as washes.
- If waters are rising, seek higher ground.
- Do not approach downed power lines, the ground can be energized for up to 200 feet.
- Keep pets indoors during storms.
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