In the wake of two days of flash flooding across areas of Flagstaff and Coconino County, and with additional flooding possible in the coming days, the city and county both declared a state of emergency Thursday afternoon.
It appeared Flagstaff residents had mostly been spared a third straight day of flooding Thursday, as on Tuesday and Wednesday water had closed streets, threatened homes and left work crews scrambling to clear drainages of debris.
In terms of monsoon rainfall, “this is about as active as it gets,” said Darren McCullum, a meteorologist National Weather Service.
“Having been here quite a while, this is this is really the high end of monsoon activity,” McCullum said. “I mean, it's day and night. Now it's during the day in one place and it's overnight in another place.”
Public Works Director Lucinda Andreani told the Arizona Daily Sun that the emergency declaration will free up money and allow other agencies and the state to provide assistance in responding to the floods.
“The level of impacts that the city and county have sustained over the last two days is significant enough that we need to be bringing in additional resources to support the response,” Andreani said. “We would really appreciate the support from the governor and the state through a declaration [of emergency of their own].”
Andreani said the decision to declare a state of emergency had a lot to do with a 100-year flood event that occurred outside the Spruce Wash on Wednesday.
That flooding impacted the neighborhoods of Swiss Manor and upper and lower Greenlaw, eventually making it to Fanning Drive, washing vehicles down the street, including one Toyota Prius that was captured on a viral video.
With all the attention on the flooding risk off of the 2019 Museum Fire burn scar, properties were undefended by sandbag walls and several homes in the area experienced water issues. At least one home was almost completely flooded.
Andreani said the flooding in that area compounded the impacts being dealt with by city and county crews already busy with responding to post-Museum Fire flooding.
“Those streets all need to be cleared, those storm drains need to be addressed. All of that area now has been impacted as well,” Andreani said.
Natalie Nixon was one resident whose home was in the path of the flooding. Sitting just across from the intersection of East Lockett Road and North Steves Boulevard, her home and the one next door bore the brunt of the water coming down the street.
Nixon said she was coming back from work when the flooding occurred and had to seek high ground, only getting home once it started to subside.
“My daughter's Subaru here, there were mailboxes and boulders crammed underneath it. The water was halfway up her car; it was probably two feet up against the wall of my house,” Nixon said.
Nixon said water and mud made it into her living room and guest room, but she thinks she and her husband will only need to replace the base boards.
Outside, the fence between her house and her neighbor's house was at an acute angle, with the ground and inundated with forest materials brought by the flooding.
Still, Nixon said the whole neighborhood came together to help out those in the path of the flooding.
“All of a sudden, a dozen neighbors just materialized. People were stopping their cars saying, ‘Can we help?’ and then they’d come back with a shovel,” Nixon said.
But her home was immaculate when compared to the house next-door.
That home, which was empty at the time of the flooding and was recently sold to new owners, was more directly in the path of the oncoming water.
The house had its garage doors pushed in by the force of a Prius that had been floating down the street, said Craig Moody, the owner of Mammoth Restoration who has been hired to restore the home.
The entire yard was full of several feet of mud and debris and inside the home, everything was covered with about 6 inches of mud, Moody said.
He said these floods will keep his team busy for quite some time.
“I mean the phone just keeps ringing,” Moody said.
Moody said it's events like these where he encourages residents to get flood insurance. It may be a monthly expense, but Moody said he knows firsthand that it is much lower than having to pay for restoration work out of pocket.
The flooding in the area came after about two inches of rain fell on the foothills of Mount Elden within about one hour Wednesday afternoon, McCullum said.
McCullum said after dumping rain just north of the neighborhood, the storm then began to move down toward the city, continuing to pelt the area with rain.
“So that heavy rain essentially followed the flash flood. That tends to make them worse when the storm goes in the same direction where the flood is going to go,” McCullum said. “It all really combined to produce what we saw on the videos as far as car washing away on Steves Boulevard.”
In the end, McCullum said close to 2.5 inches of rain fell on the neighborhood, in addition to the two inches that had fallen just to the north of it.
The National Weather Service forecast continues to call for a 60% to 80% chance of showers and thunderstorms each afternoon through, with high temperatures in the upper 70s and lower 80s.
Adrian Skabelund can be reached by phone at (928) 556-2261, by email at email@example.com or on Twitter at @AdrianSkabelund.