Through the end of September, the monsoon season will continue to nourish the desert around us, but will also continue to add a safety concern for those in the area.
Since January, Tucson has received 4.37 inches of rain, which is down .95 inches from the expected normal rainfall. The lack of nearly an inch of rain has not gone unnoticed in the Northwest as calls to emergency personal have been down from last year.
“The Northwest side has not had a lot of significant and massive storms to this point,” said Cpt. Adam Goldberg with the Northwest Fire District. “We haven’t had a significant amount of water that has caused us to get a swift water response that we saw last year along Silverbell and out in the Marana area.”
But last week, crews from Northwest Fire District responded to a swift water rescue in the Rillito Wash just west of La Cañada to rescue three children who were trapped on a sand island. While playing in the wash, the water began rushing downstream and they were unable to get out.
Even though there haven’t been any large monsoon storms this season, he says there is still cause for concern as there are plenty of days left within the season.
“If there is running water, you shouldn’t cross it,” Goldberg said. “The same principles apply. You don’t know how deep it is, you really can’t get a good feel for how fast
it is moving, especially if it is dark.”
As the monsoon season progresses, the ground and washes become saturated. The water isn’t quickly absorbed into the ground, which causes flooding to happen quicker and with more force.
A similar incident to the Rillito Wash happened Friday in Oro Valley, when a 15-year-old boy had gone out into the Big Wash when it was dry. A flash flood came through and trapped him on a small island. Golder Ranch Fire District rescued the boy without any injuries or other incidents.
Up until last week, Golder Ranch Fire District Chief Joshua Hurguy said the district really hadn’t seen much activity, but knows the storms will still cause issues this monsoon season.
“Every year we’ll get a few people stuck in low crossings, we’ll get some power lines down, and a tree fire here and there,” he said.
A common area for Golder Ranch to respond to is in Catalina along the Lago Del Oro Wash. The area is prone to flooding because the road runs fairly close to the wash and with a shallow easement, the district sees issues with power lines and the road throughout the monsoon storms.
The highest wind speed reported this year has been 22 mph with gusts reaching 27 mph, which has caused a few minor tree issues on the northwest side.
So far this season, the southwest side of Tucson has been hit the hardest with storm damage taking out power lines and stranding motorists with fast moving water, all things that have and can still happen this season in the Northwest.
“We need to take the time that if we know there is bad weather, plan ahead and plan alternative routes,” Goldberg advised. “Leave yourself some extra time and you’ll still make it through without problems.”