Instead of getting ready to go to work at Veterinary Emergency & Specialty Center of Northern Arizona on Wednesday, Dani Stevens was watching 2 feet of water rush toward her house.
Stevens and her boyfriend, Brandon Jones, moved to Flagstaff and into their house on Brandis Way almost a year ago, and flooding hadn’t been on their radar at all.
“I was welcoming the rain until Wednesday,” Jones said. “I was worried about fires this whole time. I just had Dani call yesterday to see if the fire bans had been lifted.”
On Wednesday, the Timberline area saw an average of 5.1 inches of rain with 4.5 inches of that falling within a two-hour time span.
Stevens was home by herself, and she said she was terrified.
The rain started at about 11 a.m., and at 1 p.m. she took a photo from her living room window of the water building up in her front yard. About 20 minutes later the standing water had turned into a two-foot moving river and 10 minutes after that, water started coming through her front door, she said.
The water made it into her living room and under her couch, and she grabbed towels and jackets to put against the door to stop the water from coming in. Just to be safe, she called the Flagstaff Fire Department when the water started coming in.
“It was literally like rapids coming down from the mountains toward us,” she said. “And the firefighter had to walk through it to get to me and make sure everything was OK.”
Jones said the house, which they rent, received the most flood damage, although his chainsaw and weed eater and one of Stevens’ chairs also got damaged. Mud, rocks, sticks and logs covered their driveway, and a small ditch they had in their front yard had been completely filled in with debris.
While there were a lot of things that could have gone wrong during yesterday’s flooding, Stevens said she was most worried about the couple’s two Australian shepherds in their house and their 20 chickens in a coop in the back yard.
The flood carried 3 feet of mud into their backyard via what looked like a dried-up riverbed the following day. It barricaded the chickens inside their closed coop.
“We had to go out there and dig the chickens out, and we still have to dig more mud out so we can close the doors,” Stevens said. “But at least they survived.”
While being interviewed on Thursday, Stevens and Jones were assisting a crew that had arrived to assess the structural damage to their house. The crew had already torn out bottom pieces of the walls in the living room and had moved on to the master bedroom.
“We might have to leave for a little bit,” she said. “And if we do, I guess we’ll go to a hotel.”
When asked how she felt about the dark clouds and lightning headed toward her house on Thursday, she paused for a moment and smiled.
“Well,” she said. “I don’t think it could get any worse.”
A Schultz flood veteran
Jonathan Archer, who lives on the corner of Brandis Way and Monsoon Road, said he watched Wednesday's storm and flooding with his 14-year-old daughter from their house.
“The rain just kept coming and coming,” Archer said.
At one point, the two watched what Archer said was water shooting up 10 to 20 feet from an already full wash.
“The funny thing is we got to go through all of this eight years ago,” he said referencing the Schultz Fire and subsequent flooding in 2010.
At that time, Archer lived on the corner of East Gemini Drive and Stardust Trail in Doney Park, about eight miles from the bottom of the San Francisco Peaks.
“We were the farthest house away from the peaks to get water,” he said.
Luckily for Archer, yesterday's flooding was not as severe. He had a half-inch of water creep about 20 feet into his detached garage where his office is located, but he was more concerned about the potential damage to his roof from hail.
“The hail was amazing,” he said. “It was only marble-sized, but it was hailing for almost an hour and a half.”
Archer said Coconino County crews deserve a lot of praise for their quick response to the flooding.
“They were out here so fast,” he said. “There were supervisors on trucks running stuff around and they were all working really fast to make sure it was safe out here.”
Over the five years following the 2010 Schulz Fire, the county made major flood mitigation improvements, both in the forest affected by the 15,000-acre wildfire and in the neighborhoods that were affected by post-fire flooding. There has not been a rain of Wednesday's magnitude, nor has there been any major flooding in the area since those improvements were made.