In the desert of Southern Arizona, flash floods can occur within minutes of a heavy rain event, and they often catch people unprepared, especially snow birds and people who are not used to our region.
Tucson is a valley encased between mountains on its north and east sides. Its soil is mainly sandy dirt that has been hardened by the dry desert climate. When heavy rain falls over the mountains, it flows along its natural drainage ways, directly into the desert washes. As the soil is so hard, it can’t absorb the sudden increase in water volume and the washes quickly overflow.
Motoring in flooded areas
It is critical for motorists to know that they should never cross a flooded wash, even if it does not look deep. Just 6 inches of fast-moving water can push a car sideways and into the deeper waters where emergency rescues become almost inevitable. Not only that, but a wash hides debris such as rocks and lumber. If fast-rolling debris hits your chassis, your car can sustain significant damage that may or may not be covered by your insurance policy.
Motorists crossing washes during heavy downpours have become such a problem for first respondents that the State Congress has enacted a law several years ago that holds you responsible for paying for your own rescue if you ignore the road signs forbidding you to enter a flooded areas.
Preparing your home for flash floods
The website of the Disaster Center publishes a series of countermeasures to help you prepare for flash flood disasters when your home is close to a wash or a floodable area:
- Keep insurance policies, documents and other valuables in a safe-deposit box, a safe place less likely to be damaged during a flood.
- Avoid building extensions in floodable areas. If the city does not restrict you from building an extension to your home in a floodable area, consult with an architect to determine the best way to protect your investment. I recommend you to consult with Stephen C. Bohn, architect and principal of Creative Architecture, a small local architecture firm that has been in business here since 1978. Their rates are reasonable.
- Raise your furnace, water heater and electric panel: Raising this equipment to a higher level will help prevent costly damage and limit the disruption that floods create in your daily life. Where do youj get your fresh water if your water heater has been hit?
- Install check valves in building sewer traps to prevent flood water from backing up into the drains of your home. As a last resort, when floods threaten, use large corks or stoppers to plug showers, tubs, or basins.
- Park your car away from the immediate surroundings of a floodable area. If you receive parents or friends during the monsoon season and they park their cars outside, let them know where the water can rise quickly so they pick a parking spot elsewhere. Your insurance may be held responsible for damages that happen to cars parked on your property.
- Bring in outdoor furniture and move indoor furniture to a higher floor if possible. A friend of mine just had his BBQ station literally washed away in his backyard due to an unusually strong flash flood.
Be insured adequately
Don’t wait until the horse has been stolen to close the barn door. Flash floods will create a mess. They will disrupt your life if you are exposed. I heard homeowners complain about the money they had to spend to repair a piece of property, buy a new car, or get an emergency renovation team after a monster flash flood. If only they had checked their insurance policy before, to fully understand their coverage!
I know a few good resources to help you check your coverage. Brett Overstreet of State Farm is one of them. He will analyze your current coverage and let you know how well you are insured. Better safe than sorry. Call me if you need more resources.
If disaster strikes
Sometimes you have done your best to prepare but it was not sufficient. The waters rose to an unusual level. Winds and micro-bursts added to the damage. Things happen, and now your life is really disrupted.
Who do you call? Well, you can call me if you need assistance with locating trustworthy local resources. I have been in the real-estate business for so many years that I have seen a very wide variety of catastrophes befall on friends, clients and acquaintances. So I made a list of trade professionals that I can recommend without reservations. Here are just a few of them.
Plumber: Bill Woods of Woods Plumbing
Emergency fire & water restoration: Kristy Nash of Quality Restoration
Painter and roof coating: Bob Anderson of AA Brite
Carpet cleaning: John Floro of The Carpet Magicians
I hope this helps; the best medicine is always preventative.