Wednesday, June 01, 2011

After the Horseshoe fire - preparing for floods and debris flows

The Horseshoe 2 fire [right, credit InciWeb] in the Chiricahua's is at almost 73,000 acres and could be the 5th largest wildfire in Arizona history by June 22 when it's finally expected to be contained.

Even while the fire rages, residents in the Portal area have been meeting with Forest Service personnel and others to prepare for the aftermath when monsoon rains threaten the burned slopes with floods and debris flows.

AZGS geologist Ann Youberg is working with residents to help them understand what could happen and what to do about it.

The bird watching community is very active in the area and their listserve is one of the effective tools for keeping everyone informed.

Here's one of the messages circulated to residents:

"If you are on or near a drainage that may have post-fire floods, you should consider getting flood insurance now. Time may be of the essence because the National Flood Insurance Program has a 30-day wait period from the time you apply until it goes into effect. Typically there is not much time between the end of a wildfire and the beginning of monsoon, especially in SE Arizona where monsoon tends to start earlier than in other areas around the state. Senator McCain and Congressman Paul Gosar have introduced legislation to address post-fire flooding. One component of that bill authorizes FEMA to waive the 30-day wait period in cases of wildfire but that legislation has not been acted on. You can read more about this effort here: Following the 2010 Schultz Fire and post-fire flooding, northeast of Flagstaff, only one private insurance company recognized that the flood damage was due to the fire. This company covered their clients’ losses. Talk to your insurance agent to see what your company's policy is regarding wildfire and post-fire flooding. Although large wildfires have been raging across the west for almost two decades now, with the 1994 Rattlesnake Fire being one of the earliest large fires, FEMA policies do not take into account the long-lasting effects of wildfire. Coconino County Emergency Managers report that FEMA did not recognize that all of the flooding throughout monsoon after last summer’s Schultz Fire were related to one fire. FEMA's policy is that three days of no rain signifies the end of one event. The next flood is an entirely new event in FEMA's eyes, which severely impacts the potential for disaster funding."

1 comment:

  1. Anonymous7:39 AM

    Hello Lee,

    Great blog. Below are a few links for your followers to resources and information about post-fire debris flows and the hazards associated with them. Also below are links to current studies being conducted. My blog link briefly touches upon a debris flow event that occurred on 6 Feb 2010 in southern California. The research we conducted within the Station Fire shows that post-fire debris flows are closely tied to short duration rainfall rates and that evacuation should come before storms are over a burn area.

    Robert (GSA Talk Abstract) (my blog site)