As a resident of a desert in the Southwestern United States you learn to deal with or despise the heat in the Summer. However, there is one aspect of Summers in the desert that bring some minimal relief, and that is monsoon season. While I haven’t paid as close attention to the weather in the valley over the last couple of years, Northern Arizona has had minimal monsoons for the last couple of years with significant changes this year. Growing up in Arizona I continue to appreciate the moisture, the changes in weather, and the incredible storms monsoon season brings.
With that appreciation year to year I often forget the magnitude and force these storms can bring, along with their associated danger and destruction. This year in Flagstaff I was reminded of this.
Two years ago in the Flagstaff area a fire changed some of the landscape of the forest while also having a significant impact on the hydrology of the area. With past experiences in the area there was significant emergency response to protect homes and businesses from inevitable flooding in the drainage basin downstream of the fire burn scar area. Fortunately, at the time, Northern Arizona experienced minimal monsoons that year and the year following. The flooding that was expected never came. Residents in the community began to despise the many rows of sandbags and began to take for granted our minimal monsoons until this year.
Not only did Flagstaff see significant rainfall events in the burn scar area, but it also experienced events in other areas of town in excess of a 200-year frequency. While I have been warned my entire life about flash floods and learned about the hydraulics of flash floods in college, I have never experienced the magnitude, force and destruction this type of flooding can have.
Below is a link to an impressive video taken of one of the flash floods experienced just down the street from my house:
Working for the City I had the unique experience of responding to these emergency flood events. Through this experience I have had the opportunity to talk with impacted residents, assess damage of our washes and drainage infrastructure, and work with many other talented engineers to implement emergency mitigation measures. It has been amazing to me to see the community come together to help their neighbors. While the challenge of working on this response has been exciting, it again has reminded me of the value and importance my profession as a Civil Engineer brings to not just my community, but communities all over the world. It makes me further appreciate my profession of choice and proud to do what I love doing.
If you are interested in seeing some other videos pictures of the flooding Coconino County has posted several on their website here:
If you are interested in more of the details of the flooding, mitigation efforts, and other general information you can find that here:
Enjoy the rest of monsoons and stay safe out there!
ASCE Section President