Queen Creek officials prepare for monsoon season

The town of Queen Creek is gearing up for this year’s monsoon season — June 15-Sept. 20 — and hoping the community will not see a repeat of last year’s historic 500-year storm, Public Works Director Troy White said during a phone interview.

The 2014 season set a record for Phoenix for the most rainfall ever on a single day when on Sept. 8, 3.29 inches of rain were recorded at Sky Harbor Airport, surpassing the previous record of 2.91 inches in 1939, Keith Kincaid, a forecaster with the Phoenix office of the National Weather Service, said during a phone interview.

“We recorded half of the state’s annual rainfall in one day,” Mr. Kincaid said.

Public works crews from Maricopa and Pinal counties as well as individual communities hurried to close and clear roads. Mr. White said he started sending out workers around 10 p.m. Sept. 7. He estimated his crew members spent about 500 hours total closing roads, pumping water, delivering sandbags and cleaning up after the storm.

“That included getting the roads and channels clear. As the basins filled up, they had to pump out the water and spread it out,” Mr. White said. “They spent numerous hours checking our channel system to make sure the debris did not block the pipes.”

Among the major road closures on Sept. 8 were Riggs Road at 196th Street and Riggs between Power and Hawes roads, and the southbound lanes of Ellsworth Road at Hunt Highway, according to postings that day on the town’s Facebook page.

Major erosion occurred at certain areas of the Sonoqui Wash embankment, Mr. White said. The town is still clearing large deposits of sediment and soil from some retention basins, he said.

“We still have 4 to 6 inches in the bottoms of the basins and we need to get that cleared so the basins can work properly,” he said. “There is still plenty of capacity there to handle close to a 100-year event.”

A “100-year” storm event has a one in 100, or 1 percent, chance of happening in any given year, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Paleoclimatology website. A “500-year” event has a one in five hundred, or 2 percent, chance of happening in any year, according to the same site.

Mr. White said the channel system incurred about $650,000-$750,000 in damage. A federal state of emergency was declared, enabling the town to eventually recoup most of funding needed to repair those areas.

The Flood Control District of Maricopa County is installing Phase 3 of the Sonoqui Wash, which includes large retention basins south of Hunt Highway and east of Hawes Road, and a pipe system to the Sonoqui Wash that will help mitigate some of the areas that were flooded in last year’s storm, Marnie Schubert, the town’s spokeswoman, said in an e-mailed response to questions.

The work should help some of the communities hardest hit last year, Mr. White said.

“A lot of water was collected and made its way to Riggs Road. A couple areas north of Riggs got hit pretty heavy. This should alleviate some of the flood water,” he said.

He said the new retention basin should intercept water from a watershed that makes its way to Riggs and Hawes. It will be sent through the piping system and above-ground channel and diverted into Sonoqui Wash at Riggs Road just east of Hawes, he said.

“That’s water that typically would sheet-flow to the west side of Hawes,” he said.

Over the past 10 years the flood-control district has spent more than $40 million for storm drainage structures in and around the Queen Creek area, Ms. Schubert said.

“This has also significantly improved the flow of flood waters during storms,” she said.

Town Emergency Manager Joe LaFortune provides information in advance when monsoon activity is predicted, Ron Knight, fire chief for the Queen Creek Fire and Medical department, said in an e-mailed response to questions. Mr. LaFortune has prepared a monsoon safety tip sheet that will be distributed to Queen Creek residents in their July water bill, Chief Knight said.

He and Mr. LaFortune participated in a storm preparedness meeting June 9 that included Mr. White and representatives from the town’s communications department, Chief Knight said.

The meeting was to review the town’s policy and procedures prior to the monsoon season, he said.
Chief Knight said his department responded to street-flooding issues and assisted residents with sandbags when needed during last year’s monsoon. He said he did not recall responding to any fires caused by lightning.

Sandbags will be available this year at Queen Creek Fire Station No. 412 at 24787 S. Sossaman Road and at the town’s recycling center at Ellsworth Road and Crewse Lane, just south of the Queen Creek Town Hall, 22350 S. Ellsworth Road.

For more information, visit the town’s website.

In case of an emergency, call 9-1-1, Mr. White said. To report flooding, call the town’s non-emergency number at 480-358-3000, he said.

•Gov. Ducey proclaims June 14-19 Monsoon Awareness Week in Arizona

With the monsoon season starting June 14, Gov. Doug Ducey has proclaimed June 14-19 as Monsoon Awareness Week in Arizona. Monsoonal days are characterized by extreme heat and intense moisture, creating high humidity; the perfect recipe for thunderstorms that produce the kind of heavy rain, high winds and lightning that can cause flash flooding and dust storms and spark wildfires, according to a press release.

The extreme heat of summer can also be dangerous, even deadly, according to the release. Dehydration, heat exhaustion and heat stroke can hit anyone who is exposed to high temperatures for too long. People over 65 years old, children under 5, individuals with pre-existing medical conditions and those who work outdoors are at high risk for heat-related illnesses.

Arizonans are encouraged to take the following actions in preparation for the monsoon season:

•Plan: Write a communication plan. The plan should identify a family meeting place, evacuation routes away from the house and an out-of-town contact. Practice the plan with your family.

•Prepare: Assemble an emergency supplies kit with enough non-perishable food and potable water to last your family, including pets, for 72 hours. Include a first aid kit, radio, flashlight, batteries, cash, cell phone charger and copies of important documents.

•Inquire: Know what hazards threaten your community. Ask your work and child’s school about their emergency plans. Bookmark EIN.az.gov for emergency updates.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s National Weather Service website has other monsoon survival tips on its website.

News Editor Wendy Miller can be contacted at 480-982-7799 and via e-mail at qcnews@newszap.com, or follow her on Twitter @WendyNewszap123.

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