This week residents, past and present, along with others gathered at the Landmark in Christopher Creek to commemorate what has been called “the deadliest natural disaster in the history of Arizona” — the Labor Day Flood of 1970. At least two-dozen people were killed around the state, many in the Rim Country and on the Beeline Highway.
Another flood in 1980 washed out the Highway 87 crossing of the Verde River north of the Valley — travelers had to make the Bush Highway their main access to and from Rim Country.
Lifetime residents recall another terrible monsoon storm in the 1960s that destroyed gardens, trees and damaged property.
People still talk about the big snows that crushed roofs and stranded people throughout Rim Country and the rest of northern Arizona. And then there was the three-plus feet the area received March 13 not too many years ago.
And just about every summer for more years than most of us like to think about we all sit on pins and needles as the forests dry out and we wonder if this will be the next big fire — the one that forces us to evacuate or worse.
September is National Preparedness Month, a good reminder of the threats posed by natural hazards and the importance for individuals and communities to be prepared.
Sound science is essential for preparing for natural hazards and helping to guide decisions to minimize their impacts. The U.S. Geological Survey works with many partners to monitor, assess and conduct research on a wide range of natural hazards, providing policymakers and the public a needed understanding to enhance preparedness, response and resilience.
The USGS plays an integral role in preparing for and responding to wildfires. The USGS provides tools and information before, during and after fire disasters to identify wildfire risks and reduce subsequent hazards, while providing real-time geospatial support for firefighters during the events.
Once the smoke clears, the danger is not over. Secondary effects of wildfires, including erosion, landslides, invasive species and changes in water quality, are often more disastrous than the fire itself. As fires are contained, USGS scientists help to assess their aftermath to guide the re-building of more resilient communities and restoration of ecosystems.
Flooding, Storms and Drought
The USGS conducts real-time monitoring of the nation’s rivers and streams, providing officials with critical information for flood warnings and drought mitigation. If you want to know whether river levels in your area are higher or lower than normal, visit USGS WaterWatch.
The USGS and the National Weather Service work together to make flood inundation maps that show you exactly where the water will be — what yards, roads and buildings will be covered — and when a river or stream reaches a certain water level.
Before, during and after major hurricanes or tropical storms affecting the United States, the USGS assesses the likelihood of beach erosion, overwash or inundation. Scientists also measure storm surge and monitor water levels of inland rivers and streams.
Unlike flooding, droughts often take a long time to begin to impact an area, sometimes incubating for months or even years. USGS science contributes to the U.S. Drought Monitor, which is the official report detailing drought conditions, as well as the NWS Drought Outlook, which forecasts future drought.
Falling rocks, mudslides and debris flows can be deadly hazards, and we are still learning more about them. USGS science is helping answer questions such as where, when and how often landslides occur, and how fast and far they might move. The USGS is working with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s National Weather Service on a Debris Flow Warning System to help provide forecasts and warnings to inform community and emergency managers about areas at imminent risk.
To learn more about National Preparedness Month, you can also visit www.fema.gov or www.ready.gov.
Check the American Red Cross Web site to learn what you should have in an emergency kit for your home and in your car in the event you are traveling or must evacuate because of a natural disaster.