Wx and the City
By Ann Posegate
While there is no flooding in sight for the Washington area (and slim chance for much-needed rain in the forecast for that matter), I still can't help but have flooding on my mind. Quite a few notable floods have occurred in the U.S. this summer, including those on the Mississippi River, and in Texas, Florida and Arizona.
Although the latter occurred in Havasu Canyon near Grand Canyon National Park, news of this flash flood in particular hit home for me. As an Arizona native with the beautiful Havasu Canyon as one of my childhood stomping grounds, I was caught in a smaller flash flood there one July during the mid-1990s. That flood raised the creek about two feet, sending anywhere from six to 24 inches of muddy water streaming over the canyon floor -- and sending my family and I scrambling to a ledge 30 feet up the canyon wall, where we waited for four hours until the water began to retreat.
Keep reading for the rest of Ann's flood story. And see our full forecast through the weekend.
The weather was flawless that day with no cloud in sight. So we had been surprised (with warning and good fortune) when a Havasupai local ran over to our campsite and frantically told us that we had 20 to 30 minutes to get to high ground because he had received a message on his radio that a flash flood was approaching. Apparently, there had been heavy rains further up the canyon that morning.
Forty-five minutes later, while watching the creek from the ledge above, we heard a loud rumble (similar to that of an airplane overhead) and a fierce wall of brown muddy water overran the quiet turquoise creek below. The water continued to rise, inches at a time, first covering a small island, then riparian shrubs, then a small boulder, then a picnic table bench...I can't stress enough how lucky I felt to be watching this from above instead of hiking down a narrower canyon further downstream.
Once we realized that no Havasupai villagers upstream or hikers and campers along the creek had been injured, the flood turned out to be a pretty amazing sight to witness. While I surveyed the damage later that day, the nearby 150-foot Havasu Falls were much stronger and dark brown with mud.
During the August 17, 2008 flood, one rescued camper observed a similar but more intense phenomenon, and another watched a new waterfall form. The flood that occurred this past Sunday sent an eight-foot wall of water through the canyon. Unfortunately, villagers and visitors did not have the same warning that I had, but many were still able to get to higher ground and watch the flood from above while awaiting rescue.
Thankfully, we don't have a monsoon season and narrow, sandy canyons in the Washington metro area. Though, there have been several notable flash floods affecting D.C., Maryland, and Virginia, including those as recent as 2001 and 2003.
With D.C. being located in the Potomac River's floodplain and within reach of tropical storms and hurricanes, there must be some interesting water-logged stories floating around this region! What are your flood stories?
Capital Weather Gang
| August 20, 2008; 11:00 AM ET
Categories: Floods, Posegate, Wx and the City
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