On Monday, September 8, the National Weather Service issued flash flood warnings for communities in Arizona, Utah, Colorado, Nevada and California. In an advisory note, the agency said conditions presented a "life-threatening situation." By the following morning, the NWS had dramatically reduced the size of the flood watch area, although additional rainfall was expected.
The Arizona Republic described a "hit-and-miss pattern" that saw some areas receive nearly twice as much precipitation as locations just a few miles away. The downpour reportedly caused at least two mudslides and segments of five major freeways were closed.
State of emergency declared in Arizona
Residents of the Phoenix area were hit hard by the storm. A record amount of rainfall was recorded at Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport, and an analysis of data from the Maricopa County Flood Control District found record levels at the majority of the rain gauges in the metro area. Local NBC affiliate KPNX-TV provided azcentral.com with photographs and video showing entire neighborhoods submerged in water.
The Arizona Division of Emergency Management's Recovery Office has yet to produce comprehensive property damage estimates, but it seems clear that the cost of repairing or replacing damaged structures will be significant. ABC News highlighted the example of a local church that is believed to have sustained as much as $2 million in damage from the flood.
Arizona Governor Jan Brewer declared a state of emergency in the flooded areas and has reportedly requested assistance from the federal government. On Twitter, Governor Brewer urged residents to exercise caution when traveling. She tagged her tweet with #TurnAroundDontDrown. The slogan, a registered trademark of the NWS, originated in Texas 10 years ago.
In an article commemorating the Turn Around Don't Drown® campaign's 10th anniversary, its creator, Hector Guerrero, said he had "wanted a catchy phrase along the lines of the fire-safety mantra 'Stop, Drop and Roll.'" Today, his advice adorns hundreds of permanent road signs in flood-prone areas.
Floods pose a major risk to people and property
The situation in Phoenix should serve as a reminder that flooding is not solely a coastal problem. Many inland communities are at risk. According to the NWS and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, floods are one of the most lethal weather hazards in the United States, causing about 90 fatalities per year. The majority of these deaths involve vehicles.
Americans must also contend with significant property damage from flooding. Homeowners in areas exposed to flooding are typically advised to ensure that valuable possessions are elevated several feet above the floor, or can be securely raised on short notice. Protecting the structure of a home is far more difficult. Pronto offers a reliable solution for calculating accurate replacement cost estimates for structures that require flood insurance coverage.