Payson, Ariz., July 21, 2017 — The recent tragic flash flood event north of Payson serves as a reminder that flash floods can occur in any drainage, creek and river throughout the state during heavy rains and monsoon storms.
Floods are among nature’s most common and destructive natural hazards. The public should be aware that even when storms do not appear to be in the immediate area, rain from a storm miles upstream can drain quickly and create flash floods miles downstream.
According to the National Weather Service’s U.S. Natural Hazard Statistics, flash floods are the number one cause of weather-related deaths in the U.S. These flash floods are extremely dangerous and swift, carrying debris, trees, rocks, large boulders, and mud that can sweep away anything or anyone in its path along stream, creek and river channels.
Be aware that steep terrain and mountainous areas are especially prone to rapid runoff during monsoon storms, which causes drainages and creeks to rise quickly. A small stream only several inches deep in mountainous areas such as the Mogollon Rim can swell to a 10-foot deep raging river in less than an hour when large monsoon storms linger over an area. The threat can be deceptive as it might not even be raining were the flood occurs due to intense rain falling upstream.
Check www.weather.gov for official National Weather Service forecasts, watches and warnings before leaving the house and venturing into uncontrolled natural environments, the forest and waterways. Avoid camping and recreating near or in drainages and creeks when storms are forecasted near the area.
A Flash Flood Watch is issued when conditions are favorable for flash flooding. It does not mean that flash flooding will occur, but it is possible. One should be prepared to move to higher ground. A Flash Flood Warning is issued when flash flooding is imminent or occurring. Individuals near waterways should seek higher ground immediately.
The best way to stay informed about weather conditions is by having multiple sources for weather alerts. At home, local radio and television stations relay watch and warning information. On the go, you can use your cell phone and NOAA weather radio to receive weather warnings.
Wireless Emergency Alerts are text-like alert messages received by your mobile device. If you have a WEA capable device and cell phone coverage is adequate, you will receive alerts for weather warnings. When a warning is issued, NOAA weather radio emits a very loud alert followed by real-time warning information. Check that you have NOAA weather radio coverage before hiking or swimming in remote locations.
The National Weather Service also provides quick updates via social media platforms for different areas of the state, which the public can sign up to follow or check on any computer connected to the Internet:
The public can also check other informational resources, such as local ranger stations, if they have questions and concerns about areas and recreation sites in the national forest, possible hazards, and things visitors need to be aware of. The Tonto National Forest website is accessible 24/7 at www.fs.usda.gov/tonto.
Gila County Emergency Management also has information about flash floods, planning and preparing for natural disasters and other hazards at http://readygila.com.
The Arizona Emergency Information Network, https://ein.az.gov, is a resource for statewide emergency updates, preparedness advice and hazards information.