First fire, now flooding in Yarnell

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by Jason Volentine

Bio | Email | Follow: @jasonvolentine

azfamily.com

Posted on July 15, 2013 at 10:02 PM

Updated Wednesday, Jul 17 at 12:01 PM

YARNELL , Ariz. -- The town of Yarnell -- already reeling from one disaster -- now faced with the very real possibility of another. Heavy rains on Monday caused minor flooding.

The fire-scorched earth is more prone to flooding because the soot and lack of vegetation act like a tarp for water to flow easily down mountains and hills.

Water rushed over several roads around Yarnell after monsoon rains poured down in sheets. Residents whose homes are still standing watched the water carefully to make sure it didn’t start encroaching on their land.

“With all this stuff burnt up there's nothing to stop the rain from flooding us,” said Scott Adair, a Yarnell resident who manages a trailer park right beside a wash. He watched as water flowed over a nearby road.

The runoff water was black and filthy with soot.

Homes in the low areas of town have been surrounded with sandbags. The white bags line house foundations, fence lines and driveways. Many of them are arranged to form a barrier facing uphill where the running water would originate.

“I know of two women who evacuated to move to a safe area,” said Frances Lechner, communications director for the Yarnell Hill Recovery Group.

Lechner said the county brought in 60,000 sandbags for the community.

“We are so grateful for all the help,” Lechner said through tears.

Those lucky enough to have escaped the fire with their homes unscathed are now buying flood insurance -- not trusting Mother Nature to spare them twice.

“Oh yeah, definitely, everybody get your flood insurance. A lot of the townspeople have done that so far,” said one resident who lives near a wash. “We don't need to have another disaster. We're just recovering and trying to get on our feet from the last one.”

Lechner said the magic number for flooding in the area would be 1/4 inch of rain in 15 minutes or less.

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