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

Flagstaff flooding
Posted at 4:22 PM, Aug 19, 2021

FLAGSTAFF, AZ — It’s a helpless feeling for so many homeowners in the Flagstaff area that have been hit by flash flooding four times now this year, and many say it’s not a matter of ‘if’ another flood will happen, but ‘when.’

Flash flooding hit the burn scars of the Museum Fire in July, and the floodwaters took the same path again this past Tuesday.

ABC15 photojournalist Danny Bavaro and reporter Nicole Grigg were in Flagstaff on Tuesday to go along with a FEMA representative and two state officials who work with the Department of Emergency Management Affairs who were on site for a pre-damage assessment of July’s flash flood.

The assessment examined if Coconino County along with Navajo, and Apache Counties have had enough damage that would qualify for a federal declaration to provide FEMA resources.

Not long after ABC15 left the tour with FEMA, a thunderstorm started to move in while we were interviewing homeowner Anissa Doten.

“There’s no permanent or quite frankly immediate solution to intervene,” said Doten, “so every time we get rain, this will continue to happen, and it’s just a matter of to what degree it will happen.”

While ABC15 was speaking with Doten, rain began to fall — a warning sign for those who live there it’s time to move vehicles to higher ground.

Following that conversation, the first emergency alert was pushed out by the National Weather Service warning of a flash flood.

“PUBLIC SAFETY ALERT: Flooding expected in Museum Fire Scar Flood Area,” was a second push alert notification that was received.

After 90 long, terrifying minutes for homeowners, the rain began to slow down, then the floodwaters would come to a stop.

The devastation went across the Flagstaff area and left over $1 million in damages to public infrastructures.

But, the loss is felt for homeowners like Kurt Drawz, whose home has flooded for a second time in the past month.

“This house is now unsellable, even if you clean it up all up,” he said, “the biggest thing is the neighbors want communication with what’s going on, what’s going to be done, what the plans are.”

So many homeowners expressed how their homes are unsellable because of the properties that now sit in the direct path of flash flooding. Outside the homes, you will find concrete barriers and sandbags in front of residential homes to try and create a path for the water.

flagstaff flooding sandbags

The water continues to push through until it hits the Sunnyside neighborhood of Flagstaff, where we found flooding impacting several blocks of residential neighborhoods.

City officials say there were 24 private properties that had interior damage in the Museum Flood area.

“We are still conducting damage assessments and this number may change once it is validated by site visits. We will provide an update when we have the assessments completed and have final numbers for impacted properties both inside and outside of the Museum Flood Area,” wrote a city spokesperson by email.

Steve Cervantes, who owns a rental property in Sunnyside, is left cleaning up for a second time as well. But, this time hits harder as he just finished updating the home from the last flash flood.

A spokesperson for the City of Flagstaff said they are actively working to put together a meeting with impacted homeowners and then will also hold a joint meeting on Monday that the public can attend virtually.

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

“I’m willing to take money out of my pocket and build this house up higher and make it affordable housing for people to come live in, they need that in the city, I understand, but, until they fix whatever is causing this why? Why bother?” asked Cervantes.