While rain in a desert climate is usually welcome, too much of a good thing can a problem for travelers, especially newcomers who may not be familiar with how quickly driving and other travel conditions can change.
“There have been flood advisories nearly every night [during] the last week or so due to the unseasonably late monsoon rains,” said Anastasia Dean, safety and occupational health specialist, U.S. Army Intelligence Center of Excellence Safety Office. “While the rain is greatly needed in the desert, the ground becomes saturated quickly and can create flooding conditions. If you have folks new to the area, they may not be aware that flooding can occur pretty quickly,” she added.
Six inches of water will reach the bottom of most passenger cars causing loss of control and possible stalling.
A foot of water will float many vehicles. Two feet of rushing water can carry away most vehicles including sport utility vehicles, or SUVs, and pick-ups, according to the website, www.ready.gov.
Do not attempt to drive through a flooded road. The depth of water is not always obvious. The road bed may be washed out under the water, and you could be stranded or trapped.
Do not drive around a barricade. Barricades are there for your protection. Turn around and go the other way. Do not try to take shortcuts. They may be blocked. Stick to designated evacuation routes.
Be especially cautious driving at night when it is harder to recognize flood dangers.
Remember to stay safe, and if you see even a small amount of water crossing the roadway, ‘Turn Around, Don’t Drown!’
Dean offered other advice for drivers.
“If the road closure signs are up, then the road is closed. Don’t drive around the barricades. There is a ‘stupid motorist law’ in Arizona, so if you do decide to drive around those barricades and you become trapped or swept away where you require rescue by the fire department, you could be [held] responsible for the costs incurred,” Dean said.
Sudden rainfall and runoff can affect hikers, bicyclists and campers, even if it’s not raining where they are.
During rainy season, avoid hiking and camping in washes and other low-lying areas. It could be raining in the mountains miles away. Water can quickly fill washes and be carried downstream. Even six inches of water can knock down most adults. If camping, tents and other equipment can easily be swept away.
While it’s important to keep an eye on children at all times, parents who live near washes should be especially mindful during the monsoon season when runoff can quickly sweep children away. Parents and guardians of young children should ensure they are properly supervised whenever they are playing outdoors and should stress avoidance of washes or lower ground when rainfall is likely.