Arizona Summer Storms brought Record Rains and Damage

Arizona Summer Storms brought Record Rains and Damage

The Centennial bridge in La Paz County received major damage during the September 2014 storms. Photo by: ADEM Recovery

PHOENIX - Arizona had an active summer – the state was hit by several monsoonal storms and the remnants of hurricanes that caused severe flooding in August and September. Homes and businesses (some more than once) were overrun by strong floodwaters, mud and debris during this busy monsoon season. Major roadways were also impacted, some areas under more than five feet of water. Bridges, water control, utilities, major equipment, and many public areas were damaged.


In mid- August it rained on seven of eight consecutive days, creating flash floods that devastated areas of Maricopa County. The hardest hit areas were Laveen (south Phoenix) and New River. In response, Governor Jan Brewer sent a Physical Disaster Declaration request to the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA), asking the agency to assist residents and businesses in their recovery.


The SBA joined the Arizona Division of Emergency Management (ADEM), Maricopa County Emergency Management, City of Phoenix Emergency Management and the American Red Cross on field Preliminary Damage Assessments (PDAs) to evaluate the impact.


The PDAs demonstrated major damage to at least 41 homes and businesses, and minor damage to an additional 61 homes and businesses. These totals confirmed losses that exceeded the minimum threshold of 25 homes and businesses for SBA program eligibility.SBA subsequently made low-interest loans available to home and business owners in Maricopa County and the neighboring counties of Gila, La Paz, Pima, Pinal, Yavapai and Yuma.


Qualifying homeowners can request property damage loans of up to $200,000 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. Business owners can request loans of up to $2 million to repair or replace property and assets.


So far, more than 35 applicants have been approved for loans totaling over $1 million.


Early September brought heavy monsoon action again. Homes, businesses and major roadways across the state flooded once more as many flood control systems exceeded their capacity.


The storm damage in La Paz, Maricopa, Mohave, and Pinal counties was so severe that Governor Brewer declared a state of emergency. She requested a Physical Disaster Declaration from the SBA and then a Major Disaster Declaration from the President of the United States.


SBA issued a Physical Disaster Declaration based on the findings made during another PDA. More than 26 homes and five businesses had sustained major damage, and 163 home and 14 businesses showed minor damage.


Thirty-one applicants have thus far been approved for loans in excess of $1.27 million.


On November 5, President Obama and the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) approved federal disaster assistance for La Paz and Maricopa counties.


The September floods caused an estimated $16.3 million in damages in Maricopa County, and an estimated $1.1 million in damages in La Paz County. A large portion of the damages was to roads and bridges ($5 million) and for the removal of debris ($3.5 million).


The President’s action makes Public Assistance funding available to eligible state, tribal and local governments and certain private nonprofit organizations in La Paz and Maricopa counties.


Public Assistance Program funds can be used to restore public infrastructure, repair roads and bridges, institute emergency protective measures and remove debris. The federal government will reimburse 75 percent of the eligible costs to those that qualify. The state covers 15 percent, and the local jurisdiction must cover the remaining 10 percent.


The declaration also allows for state and local governments to take part in the Hazard Mitigation Grant Program (HMGP). HMGP provides financial assistance for actions taken to prevent or reduce long-term risk to life and property from natural or technological hazards. Grants are available to all counties in the state, but priority is given to those counties that were declared a disaster. 


Two examples of projects that would most likely qualify for a HMPG are the relocation of property out of a flood plain, and the installation of conveyances to divert floodwaters away from people and property as was done in Timberline after the Schultz Flood.


The cost share for HMPG approved projects is 75/25. The federal government will pay 75% of the cost and the applicant agency pays the rest.


ADEM takes an active role in disaster recovery. As administer of the federal program funding for the state, ADEM manages the process for each county. The Recovery section hosts applicant briefings to review eligibility, how to track costs and paperwork requirements. They also work with the applicant to develop project worksheets. The worksheets contain the location, damage description, scope of work and estimated cost of repair. Once the work is complete, ADEM reviews all provided information and then gives the funding to the applicant.  


"Being able to manage a presidentially-declared Major Disaster allows us an opportunity for continuity with the state's political subdivisions,” said Anthony Cox, ADEM Infrastructure Branch Manager. “We know our applicants and have past experience with many of their infrastructure vulnerabilities and recovery needs. We believe we can provide the best possible customer service based upon these relationships and working partnerships."


Returning people and businesses (including governments) back to normal after an incident is key so communities can get on with their lives.