Soggy Weather Has Much Of Arizona Under Flash Flood Watches

By Steve Goldstein, Lauren Gilger, Nakiesha Johnson, Julian Hernandez
Associated Press
Published: Tuesday, September 24, 2019 - 9:23am
Updated: Wednesday, September 25, 2019 - 10:18am

Audio icon Download mp3 (5.65 MB)

Much of south-central and southeastern Arizona was under flash flood watches Tuesday as residents in some areas cleaned up after winds downed trees and lightning struck at least two homes in metro Phoenix.

No injuries were reported from those storm-related incidents Monday.

Heather Murphy with the Phoenix Street Transportation Department said the storm seemed to make up for an otherwise easy monsoon season. In its wake, many downed trees and other debris had to be cleared from the roadways, and some flooded areas around 67th and 91st avenues were still barricaded Tuesday morning.

Flash flood watches at midmorning Tuesday included Phoenix and Tucson and extended from Wickenburg in northwestern Maricopa County to the state's southeastern corner.

Lightning strikes of homes were reported late Monday in Phoenix and Surprise, and wind snapped a tree at a Scottsdale home, sending part of it into the house's kitchen.

Crews earlier Monday rescued people from several vehicles stuck in flooded unbridged crossings.

The Salt River Project on Monday began releasing water downstream to make room in its reservoir system.

Water released from the lower Salt River reservoirs continued to flow over McKellips Road and parts of Gilbert Road on Tuesday.

Jeff Lane with the Salt River Project explains the flow is what remains from Monday’s water releases.

“We’ve pretty much cut our releases down to basically nothing overnight, because the second round of storms didn’t, they dissipated, they didn’t go over the three lower Salt River reservoirs.”

Flood waters along the two roads were expected to recede on Tuesday evening, but the Maricopa County Department of Transportation has not indicated when it will be able to begin the cleanup process.

Canyon Lake alone received 6 inches of rain in a short amount of time and was near capacity, according to the SRP website. Releases were up to 48,000 cubic feet per second.

Jeff Lane with SRP described the impact Monday afternoon.

“Two roads that run across the dry river bottom that people use for commuting, they’re likely to be closed for rush hour today and tomorrow morning and those are at McKellips Road over the salt river and Gilbert road over the salt river," said Lane.

Lane urges residents to avoid the flooded low crossings because the water releases can be extremely hazardous with strong currents often filled with debris.

When monsoon and storm water is released from Saguaro or Canyon lakes into the Salt River, it flows downstream where it fills Tempe Town Lake. In past storms, high water discharge rates and debris traveling down from the Salt River and Indian Bend Wash has led to cancellations of activities on the lake due to safety issues.

Kris Baxter with the city of Tempe said during Monday’s storm, the discharge rate peaked at 6,000 cubic feet per second, slowed down as of Tuesday afternoon and didn’t carry any debris into the lake.

When the remnants of Hurricane Rosa passed through Arizona last year, the discharge rate peaked at nearly 25,000 cubic feet per second and prompted Tempe to release water from the lake. Baxter said Monday’s storm didn’t produce nearly as much water flow into the lake as past events.

In Willcox in Cochise County, winds Monday night damaged several homes and snapped power poles.

ASU professor of geographical sciences Randall Cerveny joined The Show to talk about the weather and what these storms mean for our ongoing drought.

Rain on the Loop 202 in Phoenix on Sept. 23, 2019
Sky Schaudt/KJZZ
Rain on the Loop 202 in Phoenix on Sept. 23, 2019.

More Stories From KJZZ

One Source, My Connection!

Like Arizona Science Desk on Facebook