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Unmapped flood zones need updating now

Unmapped flood zones need updating now

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Who would have thought it: Flooding in the high, windswept plains of Doney Park.

But burn off the hillside vegetation on 15,000 acres above the community, then throw in two weeks' worth of heavy monsoon rains, and even professional hydrologists are surprised by where the excess water and mud are winding up.

As Cyndy Cole reported Sunday, the county's flood maps are of little help to residents -- they haven't been updated using the latest satellite technology, meaning all they show is a narrow flood zone bordering the Rio de Flag. Everything else is considered at minimal flood risk.

Don't tell that to Tom Farrell and other residents of Sunset Crater Estates, a low-lying area east of Highway 89 that has flooded in the past even before the Schultz fire.

Farrell complains that high-bermed county and private roads act as dams in some neighborhoods, backing up water into homes upstream and diverting it into other areas downstream. Combine that with post-fire efforts by the county to rechannel water that has been coming off the mountain into Timberline above him, and Farrell sees the potential for even more flooding where he lives, not less.

County officials concede they don't yet have a long-term flood control plan -- they are too busy responding to the near-constant deluges that carve new water courses and damage previously dug trenches.

One interesting ploy is the so-called Copeland Canal, which was extended by 300 feet late last week into the Cinder Lakes area, the better to let water drain first into the porous cinders before it can reach Sunset Crater Estates just downstream.

Another tactic has crews widening and deepening the huge roadside trenches alongside Highway 89, then channeling water along Brandis, Campbell and Girls Ranch roads to the highway corridor and, it hoped, south through the ditches instead of east into Fernwood and Doney Park.

As we noted above, for residents of Doney Park who thought they'd never have to worry about flooding when they bought their house, all of the above is a rude wake-up call. Banks and other mortgage-holders are likely to be requiring flood insurance riders when annual home insurance policies come up for renewal, and the pressure will be on county officials to get flood maps updated as soon as possible.

For now, though, some homeowners are caught in a dilemma: Do they go to the expense of cleaning up from the first round of floods before their new insurance kicks in after 30 days and hope the sandbags hold, or wait for possibly more damage that will be covered?

As Joe Ferguson reported Sunday, the answer is not a simple yes or no, given the damage that rot and mold can cause within the first few days of flooding inside a house. Wait too long to get started on repairs, and there might not be much left worth saving. Many restoration companies are offering free consultations, and we urge affected property owners to contact one of them, even they plan to do most of the work themselves. The Flood Hotline Number for residents who have questions and concerns is 679-8390.

We also again urge area residents outside the flood areas to take a turn volunteering on the sandbag piles or the mud-shoveling crews. Yes, it is tiring, dirty work, but your head and heart come away with a good feeling, even if your muscles don't. The number to call is 607-2140.

Finally, given the lack of insurance by many, we hope you'll consider a donation to the Schultz Fire Flood Fund. Call United Way at 773-9813 or contribute at www.uwna@nazunitedway.org.

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