Arizonans Need to be Prepared for Floods

Arizonans Need to be Prepared for Floods

Flooding occurs in Arizona more often than people think it does.

PHOENIX -- When most people think of Arizona, they don’t imagine floodwaters rushing down a residential street, overflowing retention basins, and shutting down freeways. However, flooding occurs often in Arizona, between 40 and 100 times a year.


The summer of 2014 brought devastating floods to Arizona.  The rainfall on September 8 totaled between three – six inches in some places. The floodwaters roared into, and covered entire neighborhoods in water and closed down Interstate 10.


The summer flood events reminded Arizonans that it does flood around the state, and everyone needs to take steps to prepare themselves.


Flooding usually occurs at two speeds–slowly, as an overland flood, or rapidly like in a flash flood.


Overland floods occur when waterways overflow their banks from excessive rainfall or snow melt, or when a levee or dam breaks, flooding the surrounding areas. Rainfall that exceeds the capacity of streets and drains can also cause overland flooding.


While overland floods develop slowly, flash floods tend to develop in minutes, sometimes with no warning. They can happen after a heavy rain, a sudden release of water, or a dam or levee break. Flash floods are fast moving and carry debris with their powerful currents.


Ken Waters is the Warning Coordination Meteorologist at the National Weather Service (NWS) in Phoenix. He warns that flash floods can happen quickly and with no notice. “Dry washes can be particularly dangerous with strong enough water flow to pick up automobiles in only minutes,” he said.  “Flash flooding can also cause rock debris falls on winding mountain roads.”


Preparation starts with knowing the flood hazards in your area. Be aware of the places that are known to flood, like streams, low-lying ground and drainage channels. Flood Smart has interactive maps, information on flood insurance and more.


As a flood can occur anywhere it rains, prepare for the potential of a flood. Write a family communication plan detailing what your family should do during an emergency. Include multiple escape routes from your home, by car and by foot. Practice evacuating with your family.


Prepare a 72-hour emergency supplies kit for your family. The kit should include enough food, water and supplies for each member of your family. Be sure to include pets and any necessary medications.


Know the different flood terms. A Flood Watch means flooding is possible. The NWS issues a Flash Flood Watch when flash flooding is possible and you should be prepared to move to higher ground.


A Flood Warning means flooding is occurring or will occur soon; if advised to evacuate, you should do so immediately. Flash flood Warnings mean a flash flood is occurring and you should seek higher ground on foot immediately.


Waters reminds people to be alert to what is happening around them. “Pay attention to cell phone alerts known as Wireless Emergency Alerts that can warn of impending flash flooding conditions in your area,” he said. “Don’t cross normally dry washes that have fast flowing water as you can’t tell how deep the water is.”


If you must evacuate due to flooding, be aware of what is happening around you. Do not walk or drive in moving water. You do not know how deep the water is or what may be hiding underneath it.


Turn Around Don’t Drown is a campaign from the National Weather Service (NWS), focusing on the dangers of driving into flooded roadways.

Find out more information on preparing for a flood, as well as what to do during and after a flood on the Arizona Emergency Information Network (AzEIN).