Two weeks ago we shared a few photos of what it looked like out here after a monsoon dumped an inch and a half of rain. We were excited and surprised to see our road turned into a river. When we moved here three years ago we asked our neighbors about the gullies and washes that crossed the two entrance roads. They assured us that in all the years they’d lived here (since the 1960s), they’d never had any trouble getting in or out. So we figured the result of that storm was a rare event.
Sunday afternoon a little after 3pm another massive storm dumped on us. It sheeted. It poured. It pounded. Lightning and thunder came in swift one-two punches. We dashed around the house unplugging things. And for the first time ever we had to calm one of our cats because he was panicked by the cacophony.
An hour later the intensity had moved north leaving behind a gentle sprinkle. As we opened all the windows to catch the lovely, cool creosote-scented breeze we heard a dull roar. Grabbing rain jackets and a camera we tromped out in the mud to look at our flowing road. Even after what we saw two weeks ago we were impressed. The entire street was filled at least three feet deep with brown, roiling water. Then we walked out back to check on Idle Hour Wash that crosses Sunset Road.
Wandering along we were stopped by an odd sight. The noisy end of a good-sized rattlesnake was hanging out of a large packrat midden. So that’s where snakes hide during a big storm! Either that or it was busy swallowing a tasty morsel. Who doesn’t like a comfy room and an in-room dinner?
The scene on Sunset was a violent tumult. The water was widening the arroyo, underscoring and collapsing the banks. Full grown Palo Verde trees fell in with a mighty splash that we could see but not hear. As before, vehicles lined the road waiting for the flood waters to subside. Thankfully no one attempted to cross. Once again we had to cancel our dinner plans.
Unfortunately, some folks driving on Silverbell Road were not as careful. About 6pm we heard a helicopter circling just to the east of us. Using our camera and binoculars we were able to watch part of the rescue operation. The helicopter hovered as a rescuer was lowered down with a basket. We couldn’t see the action on the ground but we did catch a glimpse of the rescuer clinging to the rope as the helicopter slowly moved to higher ground. Then the basket and the rescuer unhooked, the rope was reeled in and the chopper flew off. We later learned that three people were rescued from a vehicle that had become stuck in a flooded crossing. It was a 93-year-old woman who had to be airlifted. Thankfully, they all survived. They may not feel so lucky once they receive the bill for their rescue.
Years ago Arizona enacted something called the “Stupid Motorist Law.” Simply put, if you knowingly drive around barricades or warning signs into a flooded area and get stuck, the rescuing entity can charge you for their services. After all, swift water rescues are incredibly dangerous, time consuming, and expensive. I think lawmakers were also hoping it would scare people into making better decisions. Apparently the message didn’t sink in since this was not the only rescue in the Tucson area this past weekend.
By the way, a 300′ section of road was completely destroyed by the flash flood flowing down Idle Hour Wash and Silverbell is indefinitely closed. Pima County road crews will be awfully busy the next few days, since many roads, like the ones around here, will need to be cleared of debris and repaired.