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Flagstaff families begin preparations for flash flooding this monsoon

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Posted at 4:50 PM, May 27, 2022
and last updated 2022-05-27 21:40:34-04

FLAGSTAFF, AZ — The monsoon is just weeks away and families in northern Arizona are already starting to prepare for the flash flooding that is possible down the Museum Fire burn scars.

On Friday, neighbors on Grandview Drive, along with volunteers, started to put out new sandbags along their property line. The sandbags have been used as protection as floodwaters come down a nearby wash, and into their neighborhoods.

Last year, the families were hit with repeated flash flooding events — three in July, and another in August.

ABC15 has been following the flooding since last summer, as video shows streets turning into rivers.

Flash flooding in Flagstaff keeps hitting same neighborhoods over and over again

“The running joke around here is in June [it's] gonna burn, and July you’re gonna wash down,” said Daniel McCray, whose lived in the same area for 15 years in Flagstaff.

He tells ABC15 that the hundreds of thousands of sandbags that line his streets and others have become a fixture they have to deal with.

“It’s just an ugly reality we all work around,” McCray said.

In total, there are around 800,000 sandbags across Flagstaff to temporarily protect families. As neighbors head into another monsoon, the sandbags will be their protection again.

However, experts told ABC15 in 2021 that these sandbags can not be a solution, as there will be more floods to come for several years.

Flagstaff’s Public Works Director, Scott Overton, tells ABC15 that it is likely that floods will happen for years to come.

He tells us there are several different projects that are being worked on that will all help in different ways, but we asked specifically if the Spruce Avenue wash, where the floodwaters come down, has been widened.

“There’s been one section that's been widened out, we’re doing as much work as possible, along the entire Spruce Avenue wash,” he said.

Along with improvements, safety upgrades are being added that include a siren alert system to notify families that flooding is coming down the mountain.

The siren system is still being worked on, and training and testing will begin in June.

“Four elevated high power speaker arrays will be installed throughout the Grandview Homes and Sunnyside neighborhoods and will emit alarm sounds and voice messages when rain thresholds are triggered within the Museum Fire burn scar," a press release stated.

Overton tells ABC15 that homeowners still need to prepared this summer.

“We know that our modeling shows us the storm events are likely going to be larger than even the infrastructure we even have room for,” Overton said.

ABC15 has reported on the drains and culverts that are not large enough to handle the amount of water that comes down the burn scars.

Dr. Ben Ruddell, a a hydrologist, and licensed civil engineer with NAU, told ABC15 in 2021 that there needs to be a channel basically the size of a river through Flagstaff to hold the water that comes into the area.

In total, there are around 400 homes and 35 businesses that are in the Museum Flood area.