Flash floods seen across northern Arizona last week
FLAGSTAFF, Ariz. — Flagstaff was hit a third time with flooding July 16, sending debris into the streets and forcing them to close.
Gov. Doug Ducey issued an emergency declaration earlier July 16 for Coconino County, making up to $200,000 available for response to flash flooding in the Flagstaff area. Residents reported streams of water flowing through their yards and on the busiest city streets.
The city of Flagstaff and Coconino County opened a joint emergency operations center. Some of the flooding occurred in neighborhoods that sit in the shadow of a mountain that burned in 2019.
“Severe post-wildfire flooding is creating dangerous challenges for communities in northern Arizona,” Ducey said Friday. “The flooding is causing road closures, damaging property and putting Arizonans’ safety at risk.”
The National Weather Service issued a barrage of weather statements July 16, warning of flood potential across the state. Many places have received more rain in the past month than in the entire 2020 monsoon season, which ran from mid-June through September, the weather service said.
“Torrential rainfall” sent flood waters flowing across State Highway 87 about 70 miles southeast of Flagstaff at one point Friday evening between Payson and Pine, the service said. The city of Flagstaff said many sections of its urban trail system were damaged and impassable due to recent flooding.
The service also issued a dust warning July 16 on the southwest edge of Phoenix where winds in excess of 40 mph created a wall of dust that reduced visibility to less than a quarter-mile across an area that included parts of U.S. Interstates 10 and 8.
At least one death has been attributed to flooding. Grand Canyon National Park July 16 identified a woman who was found in the frigid Colorado River after a flash flood swept through her rafting group’s trip.
Rebecca Copeland, 29, of Ann Arbor, Michigan was found July 15 near the camp where the group of 30 had set up the night before, park officials said. Much of the group’s belongings were washed away after a torrent of water rushed through a slot canyon above them.
Park spokeswoman Kaitlyn Thomas said a handful of people were “very seriously bludgeoned by the debris.” A handful of them had to be evacuated by air from the canyon, the park said.
A different commercial rafting group found Copeland and another woman who initially was reported missing. Thomas said she didn’t know whether that group actively was searching for the missing people at the time.
“I am confident that the river community did know something was up but I imagine they were on the lookout,” she said.
The National Park Service and the Coconino County examiner are investigating the incident, the park said in a statement.