Some residents in Flagstaff’s Timberline neighborhood are cleaning up after Wednesday's historic rainfall caused widespread damage and flooding. They live just below the scar of the 2010 Schultz Fire on the eastern flank of the San Francisco Peaks. It’s a vulnerable area because the forest floor is loose, and unable to withstand heavy rain. A clogged drainage ditch made the situation even worse on Wednesday. KNAU’s Aaron Granillo reports from Timberline.
We’re standing on an overpass along Brandis Way. It’s one of the main roads that runs through the Timberline neighborhood. Underneath this bridge is a man-made channel made up of cinder blocks, specifically designed to prevent flooding. Yesterday, though, it was overwhelmed by an extraordinary weather event. Now, tree trunks, boulders and thick mud fill this channel as construction crews work to clean up this mess.
Only a few miles away, upslope, is the footprint of the 15,000 acre Shultz Fire. The vegetation has not recovered to pre-fire conditions, so when more than five inches of rain fell in mere hours, the earth gave way, sending mounds of tree limbs and rocks caked in mud into Timberline. Some of them ended up in Dani Jones front yard.
"Some of the county workers were just here and they said this is the worst that they’ve seen," said Jones.
Jones was inside during the storm, when two feet of water came rushing into her living room.
"I was stuck in the house. By the time I realized it was a bad situation I couldn’t go anywhere," said Jones. "I called the fire department. The fire department came out, and said it was safer to hang out in the house than it was to leave the house. So I just hung out. The dogs were safe."
Officials with Coconino County say Jones was one of seven residents who had mud and water enter their homes. About 200 more had some sort of damage outside. Ellen Augenstein’s property was spared.
"There were so many trucks and graders and going up and down the road and the water along the side of the road was just rolling down that ditch," said Augenstein.
The channel was built after destructive flooding in the Shultz Burn Area in 2010. Augenstein says it had proven effective up until yesterday.
"It was definitely doing its job. I think it was just overwhelming. I think five inches of rain is pretty unusual for any place," said Augenstein.
The National weather service called the storm a 1,000 year rain event. The county, meanwhile, is acting quickly to clear mud and debris. There’s no official timeline as to when the work will be done and powerful thunderstorms hit the area again today.