• Monsoon facts and figures

    Monsoon facts and figures

  • How to prepare for Arizona's monsoon

    How to prepare for Arizona’s monsoon

  • Tips for driving in monsoon storms

    Tips for driving in monsoon storms

  • How to prepare your home for monsoon storms

    How to prepare your home for monsoon storms

  • Capturing Arizona storms

    Capturing Arizona storms

  • 4 deadly emergencies and how to survive them

    4 deadly emergencies and how to survive them

More than a month into the summer monsoon, heavy downpours have filled streets and washes with runoff, caused building damage and created a handful of dangerous flash floods.

If it seems like storms are more severe this year, that might not be so far from the truth, according to a recent study from University of Arizona scientists. While the average amount of rainfall this season remains the same, the study concluded that central and southwestern Arizona are receiving fewer, but more intense, storms than seen 50 years ago. 

Streets and washes recently flooded in Apache Junction, Queen Creek, the San Tan Valley area, Mesa, Gilbert, Avondale, Laveen, south Phoenix, Buckeye, Litchfield Park, Goodyear and Ahwatukee Foothills as heavy rain fell across the Phoenix area. The East Valley received more than two inches of rain in an hour, according to the National Weather Service.

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And a deadly flash flood near Payson July 15 claimed 10 victims from the same family having a birthday celebration at the Cold Springs swimming hole. First-responders reported that a “6-foot-tall, 40-foot-wide black wave” moved at 45 mph through a narrow canyon after a heavy thunderstorm eight miles upstream at Ellison Creek. The more than 100 visitors to the swimming hole had no warning before the water rushed around them. 

Flood warning branch manager Steve Waters and hydrologist Chandra Miller from the Maricopa County Flood Control District outlined steps Arizonans can take to be prepared and stay safe in the event of a flood. 

Stay informed

The National Weather Service sends four types of flood-related advisories to all cellphones via cell towers in the area of potential flooding, so even an out-of-state visitor in the area would receive notice of a potential flood. 

A flood advisory is at the bottom of the scale, meant to inform residents that officials are monitoring potentially problematic storm conditions. A flood watch is issued when a storm conditions could create a flood. When a flood warning is issued, that means a flood is already occurring or one is imminent. 

If a flash-flood warning is sent out, the weather service advises people to move to high ground as soon as possible if in a flood-prone area. Flash floods can suddenly appear without warning, even in areas where it hasn’t been raining. 

ARIZONA MONSOON 2017: Read the latest on our weather blog

If you are unsure if emergency alerts on your cellphone are turned on, you can check the settings of your device.

Apple users need to go to the “settings” application, click on the “notifications” section, scroll down to the bottom of the page and click the button to turn on “emergency alerts” underneath the “government alerts” subsection. 

Android devices have emergency alert preferences as well. Go to “messages,” then click on “settings.” Within that heading, click on “emergency alert settings,” then “emergency alerts,” to receive these kinds of notifications. 

County flood control officials also advise residents to tune in to local radio or television news during particularly violent storms to stay informed of the latest conditions. 

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Protect your home

If the county issues a weather alert for heavy rainfall or potential flooding, residents can protect their homes by stacking up sandbags at outdoor entryways to prevent water from getting inside. 

Materials to create sandbags are available for free at various locations across the Valley on a first-come, first-served basis and is limited to six sandbags per outdoor entryway. 

The locations are self-serve, so plan to bring a shovel and someone who can fill the bags. Most locations only provide sand, so county flood control recommends purchasing bags beforehand at a local hardware store such as Lowe’s, Home Depot or Ace Hardware. 

Officials recommend filling bags two-thirds of the way so they can lie flat and nestle against each other to keep water out. Stack three bags at the base of you door, then stagger the others like bricks on top.

For extra protection, you can lay a plastic garbage bag on the ground underneath the bags and then wrap it over the top of the stack to divert the water away from your property. 

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Be prepared

County flood control officials recommend creating a safety plan with your family in case of a severe storm.

Keep cash, a first-aid kit, generators, a radio and three days worth of food and water on hand in your home. Put together an emergency “grab and go” kit with food, water, first-aid supplies, prescription medications, cellphone chargers, flashlights, and batteries. 

Store extra gas, a blanket and window-breaking hammer in your car in case need to leave an area in danger of flooding. 

If you have to leave your home, keep important documents, money and cellphones in waterproof plastic bags. 

Establish a meeting spot in case you get separated, and have a contingency plan in place for pets.

MORE:  How a state of emergency declaration helps you — and how it doesn’t

‘Turn around, don’t drown’

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates half of all flood-related drownings are caused by motorists driving into dangerous floodwaters.

A small car can be washed away by just 12 inches of water, while 2 feet of water can carry away an average vehicle, according to the National Weather Service.  

Many of these drownings are preventable, but drivers often ignore road blocks and detours or attempt to drive through flooded areas. 

County flood control advises motorists to avoid crossing flooded roads, even if it looks like the water isn’t very deep. Officials said appearances can be deceiving and water can erode the roadway.

If you get caught in a flood, the weather service advises motorists to stay in their vehicle if the water is moving quickly. If the water isn’t flowing, abandon your vehicle and move to higher ground. 

Officials also advise motorists to turn around, find an alternative route or wait until the water clears. Avoid highways where significant flooding can occur, like Interstates 10 and 17 and U.S. 60.

If you’re heading out on the road during or after a storm, check the Arizona Department of Transportation’s statewide traffic incident map or the Maricopa County Department of Transportation’s county traffic map for roadway updates. 

After the storm

If a storm or flooding has caused damage to your home, county flood control recommends taking photos and videos of the damage and making a list of anything that was damaged, destroyed or lost.

Check your property for any structural damages and to ensure that electric, gas and other utility lines are secure. 

When cleaning up your property or removing items after a flood, wear masks, gloves and boots to protect yourself from unknown elements in the water or items that could have washed up from a flood. 

Contact your insurance agent to see if you have flood insurance and to get started on filing a claim. While home insurance policies don’t include flood coverage, it can be purchased from the National Flood Insurance Program through the insurance agent who handles your homeowner’s policy. 

The Federal Emergency Management Agency estimates one inch of flood water can do at least $20,000 worth of damage.

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