Monday, September 08, 2014

A day of flooding across Arizona

We sent AZGS employees home a little early today after the City of Tucson sent their non-essential staff home at 3 p.m. News reports said the city had closed or was closing bridges across the Santa Cruz River, which lies only a block west of our offices.  There were fears that the high waters might undermine the river banks and threaten the structural integrity of the bridges.   I left at 5 p.m. worried that I would not be be able to get over the river to get to our home in the Tucson Mountains.  But the river level was down as I drove over it.  City workers were measuring the water flow, and local tv crews were capturing it all.  [Right, flooding on Interstate 10 in downtown Phoenix]

Visitors to Tucson are often surprised at the general lack of culverts and storm drains.   Streets typically follow the lay of the land, dropping down as they cross washes and gulleys.    Runoff from rain storms flows down washes and right across the roads.  Motorists are repeatedly warned not to cross washes with even what seem to be low levels of flowing water, not realizing the power of that water to sweep away vehicles or at least strand them.

AZGS geologists were responding to reports of heavy runoff eroding and undercutting roadways and other structures.    

Governor Jan Brewer issued a declaration of emergency in response to flooding statewide:

            PHOENIX – Governor Jan Brewer today declared a State of Emergency in response to record flooding in Arizona.  

            On September 8, 2014, powerful rains combined with remnants of Hurricane Norbert caused record precipitation and flooding throughout Arizona. The storms resulted in significant impacts to transportation infrastructure throughout the Phoenix metropolitan area in Maricopa County, including the closure of State Route 51, Interstate 10 and 17 and U.S. Route 60. The heavy rains also threatened lives, caused residential damages, forced evacuations in La Paz County and required emergency response search and rescue missions, including the American Red Cross opening shelters in Maricopa and La Paz Counties. The threat of flooding remains high due to heavily saturated soils and the anticipation of additional waves of precipitation.

            Governor Brewer is authorized under to A.R.S. § 26-303(D) to declare a State of Emergency to provide financial support for eligible response and recovery costs.  Maricopa and La Paz Counties have declared a state of emergency and are requesting the state’s financial assistance to recover from the flooding. The Governor’s Declaration:

a.         Declares that a State of Emergency exists in Maricopa and La Paz Counties due to flooding, effective September 8, 2014; and

b.         Acknowledges that this weather system is still passing through the State of Arizona, and will be amended to include additional counties as the situation requires; and

c.         Directs that the sum of $200,000 from the general fund be made available to the Director of the Arizona Division of Emergency Management; and

d.         Directs that the State of Arizona Emergency Response and Recovery Plan be used to direct and control state and other assets and authorize the Director of the Arizona Division of Emergency Management to coordinate state assets; and

e.         Authorizes the Adjutant General to mobilize and call to activate all or such part of the Arizona National Guard as is determined necessary to assist in the protection of life and property throughout the State.        

            Preliminary damage assessments will be scheduled by the Arizona Department of Emergency Management’s Recovery Office in conjunction with the counties, as requested. Response costs and damage to public infrastructure have not yet been estimated by the counties.

            Visit the Arizona Emergency Information Network website – – for emergency updates, preparedness and hazard information, and multimedia resources.

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