Agencies Work Together to Assess Flood Damage

Agencies Work Together to Assess Flood Damage

A home destroyed by the flash flood in New River, August 2014. (Photo by ADEM PIO)

August monsoonal floods struck areas of Maricopa County quite hard, leaving damage behind. Flash floods roared through neighborhoods in New River and south Phoenix, tearing down brick walls, rushing through houses, destroying foundations and property.


The flash floods were due to an excessive amount of rain (3.97 inches in Phoenix and 6.85 inches in New River) in a short period of time. The rains caused the normally dry creek bed in New River to crest to a height of nine feet, and water flow levels of over 8,000 cubic feet per second.  These above-average rainfalls in a compressed time frame resulted in significant flooding in both areas.


The Arizona Division of Emergency Management (ADEM), the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA), Maricopa County, the City of Phoenix and the American Red Cross Grand Canyon Chapter toured the areas to assess whether the impacts would qualify for SBA loans. On a warm morning in the Phoenix neighborhood of Laveen, Jesse Cisneros, a damage assessor for the SBA, walks up to the first house, takes out his notebook and starts writing. “We have to look at damage versus fair market value on each property,” he said.  “We’re looking at three things – land (and its improvements), structure, and the contents within the house.”


Cisneros knocks on the front door and a harried homeowner lets the team in to look around. “The water was running like a river in our house,” he says. The homeowner has removed hunks of drywall in every room of his house. The carpet has been torn up, and broken furniture is piled in dumpsters outside. The foundation sits exposed outside on the east wall of his house.


Cisneros asks each resident he visits the same questions about the height and direction of the floodwater, the value of the house, the cost of the landscaping, and more.  And at each address he hears the same story, more or less. Water rushed in one side of the house, and out the other, an unwelcome guest. 


Travelling through the neighborhood, homeowners are working to do what they could to clean-up. In one area, the floodwaters knocked down brick walls in three adjoining backyards. Neighbors were working

together to put new walls up, surprised at the force of nature.


In the afternoon, the assessment team drove to New River to assess the flood damage. Residents came out to welcome the team, tell their stories and show the damage caused by the rushing waters. 


Over and over in this damaged community, the talk was about helping each other and seeing who needed what to get by. While the assessment team was looking at the damage, the community offered assistance by guiding the team to damaged property for inclusion in the report.


At the end of the day, the PDA demonstrated major damage to at least 41 homes/businesses and minor damage to an additional 61 homes/businesses, confirming that the number of primary residences and businesses experiencing physical loss exceeded the minimum threshold of twenty-five (25).


Governor Jan Brewer sent a disaster declaration request to the SBA on September 3, asking the agency to assist residents and businesses in their recovery from the flash floods.


In this instance, the SBA determined that the threshold was met and they sent a notification to the State declaring a disaster making SBA assistance available in Maricopa County and the neighboring counties of

Gila, La Paz, Pima, Pinal, Yavapai and Yuma.


For qualifying homeowners in Maricopa County, a Physical Disaster Declaration makes property damage loans of up to $200,000 available to homeowners and renters to repair or replace damaged or destroyed real estate. Loans of up to $40,000 are given to eligible households to restore or replace property.



“The U.S. Small Business Administration is strongly committed to providing Arizona with the most effective and customer-focused response possible, and we will be there to provide access to federal disaster loans to help finance recovery for residents and businesses affected by the disaster,” said SBA’s Administrator Maria-Contreras-Sweet. “Getting our businesses and communities up and running after a disaster is our highest priority at SBA.”