LOBE-MIAMI, AZ (3TV/CBS 5) - Flash floods can come without warning when it rains in some parts of Arizona, especially in areas recently burned by wildfires. East of the Valley in Gila County, new technology is giving officials a much-needed heads up for fast-moving waters in the Globe-Miami area.
They're newly purchased rain gauges, strategically placed on the massive Telegraph Fire burn scar. They act as a canary in the coal mine for rainy days and give the emergency manager a crucial 20 minutes to alert the public.
Before the floods come into town limits, Gila County emergency manager Carl Melford sees them on one of the seven new sensors placed around the burn scar, providing a live feed of the mountain's watersheds. "It's a critical piece of infrastructure in a high-risk zone," said Melford. "We've seen events where it was raining on one section of the burn scar and we knew where we were going to see the effects from that."
It gives Melford 20 minutes to alert the public to get to higher ground using a notification system. "Before, we wouldn't have known until it got there, so it's given us 20 minutes of valuable time," said Melford.
The seven sensors cost approximately $70,000. They were bought and paid for by newly approved state funds from HB 2001. "It's saved lives so it's definitely paid off, no matter the dollar amount," said Melford. Rain totals from the sensors are available for the public online.