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One year later: New River 2014 flood highlights importance of preparedness

8/19/2015

Elizabeth Medora
Staff

NEW RIVER – Aug. 19, 2014 started like a typical rainy day during the monsoon season. In just a few hours, however, it was evident that this was no ordinary storm. Record rainfall caused damage all over the Valley, and New River especially was hit hard. About five inches of rain fell that day, much of it in just five hours.

Over the course of Aug. 19, 2014, Daisy Mountain Fire Department and other Valley fire departments performed multiple water rescues. New River Elementary staff evacuated students to the Anthem Community Center. The I-17 was closed down for miles due to Skunk Creek flooding over the freeway. Roadways around the North Valley flooded and were closed.

While the 8/19/14 flood was unusually severe, flooding is always a possibility during monsoon season. Paul Schickel of Daisy Mountain Fire counsels everyone to plan ahead and be prepared.

“You never really know what you’re going to get,” Schickel said regarding monsoon storms.

Schickel is the Program Organizer of the DMFD Community Emergency Response Team. CERT training helps residents prepare for emergencies and be ready to evacuate if necessary or shelter in place for three days. Schickel encourages everyone to keep three days’ worth of provisions on hand, enough for themselves, their family, and their pets.

In addition to non-perishable food and bottled water, Schickel recommends that residents put together a kit that includes things that would be difficult to replace or go without in an emergency: medication, eyeglasses, and similar items. Another recommendation is having hard copies of insurance policies, family records, and other important documents available so that in an emergency, needed information can be quickly accessed. A flash drive that holds copies of important documents is also recommended, as it is easily portable and can be opened on most computers.

For additional flood protection, DMFD is offering free sandbags at the DMFD Station #141, located at 43814 N New River Road. Residents can stop by and get sandbags during normal business hours.

Maricopa County Flood Control District also stresses the importance of being prepared in case of an emergency. On their Web site, www.fcd.maricopa.gov, the Flood Control District encourages residents to:
Purchase flood insurance for their property,
Stay informed and provide input on flood control projects and studies in your community,
Follow safety guidelines during storms and floods, especially when near flooded washes and riverbeds,
Adhere to regulations when building or maintaining property in a floodplain.

For residents who may be living in a floodplain, the Flood Control District offers information on proper permits and ways to improve property safety in the case of a flood.

“We encourage residents to obtain floodplain use permits so FCD can work with them to make sure they locate or move barriers on their property, out of a potential water flow,” three Flood Control District staff members wrote in response to a request for information. “We can also help educate them about anchoring tanks and buildings, elevate objects, etc. The Floodplain Management & Services Division at FCD has proper permitting brochures, and the FEMA Floodsmart site is also a great resource with permitting information. FCD will visit areas and talk with people to guide them.”

The Maricopa County Flood Control District also offers information on flood clean-up. See information and recommendations for residents at www.fcd.maricopa.gov/citizen.

The damage caused by last year’s flood is still evident in some areas of the New River Wash. Downed trees and erosion mark where the flood swept through. The damage is, however, reported to be on the surface.

“Overall, our understanding is that there were no significant changes to the river that warranted us to redelineate the floodplain,” Flood Control District staff noted. “Desert rivers naturally move a lot of sediment during a rain event; some areas were scoured and sediment was deposited in other areas. The extent of the water was consistent with our existing floodplain delineation. That means that overall, the water went where we thought it would go.”

The Flood Control District doesn’t specifically handle damage to bridges, such as the bridges on New River Road and the I-17 Frontage Road, but they did note that, according to their data, the bridges were not damaged.

Flash floods are notoriously unpredictable. Having provisions stored and having an emergency plan in place helps residents be prepared for the unexpected.

“We want to get people as involved and active as we can,” Schickel, who organizes CERT training, noted.

Learn more about emergency preparedness through the Daisy Mountain CERT training. The next CERT class starts Thursday, Sept. 3, and will be held at the Daisy Mountain Fire Station #141, located at Circle Mountain and New River Roads. The training runs for eight weeks and is open to anyone who is at least 18 years old. Training is free. The classes will be tailored to the local community. To register or to learn more, contact Paul Schickel at (623) 695-1424 or Paul.Schickel@DMFD.org.

See flood preparedness information from FEMA at Floodsmart.gov.