Water rescue teams, ADOT crews ready to respond as storms hit Valley

Flood control, flooding, rain
Posted at 3:19 PM, Jul 22, 2021
and last updated 2021-07-23 12:27:25-04

Valley rescue teams are staying busy Friday and will continue to be on standby through the weekend as we deal with heavy rain and threats of flash flooding.

All crews members in the Rural Metro Fire Department take part in swift water rescue training every year.

Shawn Gilleland, the spokesperson for the department, said they typically work with DPS and other fire departments to coordinate rescues. He said they'll be keeping their eye on the weather and make sure crews are ready to deploy in case of an emergency.

Those types of rescues require specific tactics, like crews wading into the water to retrieve someone, or working with another department for helicopter rescues.

"When somebody gets stranded in a flooded roadway, they try to cross a creekbed and now it's flooded, their car gets stuck. Sometimes people go out there and try to kayak down these things, or they play in the water and they get trapped on an island or they get washed downstream, and then we have to go deploy resources to go get them," said Gilleland.

On average, Gilleland said they respond to about half a dozen rescues a year. Some are more severe than others.

Any storms that continue to develop could produce heavy rain and flash flooding, along with strong winds, blowing dust and small hail.

Freeways, like Interstate 10 and Interstate 17 have flooded in the past, so ADOT crews are ready to respond if flooding occurs.

A department spokesperson Thursday said there are more than 55 pump stations along sections of Valley freeways, and technicians work throughout the year to maintain pump engines and pipelines so they properly lift stormwater to drainage channels or basins near pump stations.

Crews are on standby, prepared to respond in case there's standing water along freeways. They'll also remove debris that can block the drains.

ADOT is urging drivers to prepare for possible dangers due to monsoon storms. The department released these tips:

  • Don’t risk crossing a flooded wash, even if it doesn’t look deep. Even a few inches of running water poses a serious risk.
  • Be extremely careful if traveling in areas where wildfires have burned. Storm runoff can send debris onto highways. It also can loosen boulders and rocks on slopes above highways. Stay alert in areas prone to falling rocks.
  • Don’t drive around “Road Closed” signs. You risk your life and face being cited under state law.
  • If traffic lights are out, treat an intersection as a four-way stop.
  • Inspect your windshield wipers and replace them if necessary.
  • Reduce your speed and maintain a safe distance between your vehicle and the one in front of you.
  • Avoid sudden braking, which can cause you to slide on wet pavement. To slow down, take your foot off the gas pedal and brake slowly.