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Monsoon, wildfire burn scars wreak flooding havoc on Flagstaff neighborhoods

Cococonino Estates flooding
Ryan Heinsius
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The entrance to Coconino Estates in Flagstaff from Highway 180 was closed Friday, July 29, 2022, due to torrential rainfall and flooding caused by runoff from the Pipeline Fire burn scar

A powerful monsoon deluge Friday afternoon brought widespread flooding to Flagstaff neighborhoods. It was the third time this week that flooding from recent wildfire burn scars inundated neighborhoods.

Coconino Estates on Flagstaff’s west side received flood water and debris runoff from Schultz Pass where June’s Pipeline Fire scoured the landscape. Flooding overflowed a culvert underneath Highway 180, causing roadway flooding and the closure of the highway for over an hour.

Flagstaff Flooding
Ryan Heinsius/KNAU
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Russ Dickerson and Branon Bauer help channel water out of a neighbor's backyard on Murray Road following flooding in the Coconino Estates neighborhood on Fri, July 29, 2022.

The Rio de Flag overflowed its banks at one point, leading to even more localized flooding. Much of Coconino Estates is in the midst of a large-scale improvement project to replace current infrastructure including curbs, storm drains and asphalt roadways. Open trenches in the construction zones are now filled with thick mud and debris from the flooding.

Flagstaff Flooding
Ryan Heinsius/KNAU
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Residents of Kutch Drive in Coconino Estates walk up the street amid flooding on Fri, July 29, 2022 to help redirect water from a neighbor's property on Murray Road.

The area of Stevana Way – a cul de sac near the Highway 180 culvert - became a lake Friday, with residents and neighbors digging trenches to try to let some of the water escape into the Rio. People banned together to dig trenches around the hardest hit homes and reinforce sandbags where they could. Drone video captured storm waters raging through the neighborhoods toward downtown Flagstaff and showed residents constantly stirring storm drains to avoid debris clogs.

Flagstaff Flooding
Ryan Heinsius/KNAU
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Residents of Meade Lane in Coconino Estates shovel mud from their properties in the aftermath of flooding on Fri, July 29, 2022.

On the city’s east side, flood waters from the 2019 Museum Fire scar stayed in newly fortified channels, passing through Grandview and Paradise Avenues with no major flooding episodes. Flooding was also reported in Doney Park as the result of recent wildfire scars on the San Francisco Peaks. Highway 89 was closed in both directions Friday for a short time.

Coconino Estates residents have set up a Flood Volunteer Hub on Meade Lane at the Rio de Flag bridge. Help is needed with sandbagging, digging and truck transports.

A self-fill sandbag station is located in the lot just north of Coconino County Health and Human Services, 2625 King Street. Filled sandbags also are available at this location. More information is at https://www.coconino.az.gov/2134/Sandbag-Information.

The Navajo Nation Department of Emergency Management issued a severe weather warning for the Navajo Nation earlier this week, through the weekend. The agency has already been working with several communities experiencing heavy rain and flooding this monsoon season. The Navajo Division of Transportation has been clearing and repairing washed out roads across the Reservation.

The National Weather Service has issued a Flash Flood Watch for the region through Sunday morning. Areas below recent wildfire burn scars will be particularly vulnerable. https://www.weather.gov/fgz.