There was a tragedy on Ellison Creek, right near the confluence of the East Verde River north of Payson this weekend when a flash flood claimed nine lives.
One person is still missing but presumed dead. The incident apparently took place at a favorite water pool called the Water Wheel. The first two attached pictures are a before and during picture of the area struck by the flash flood.
This is the classic example of why we’re so concerned about flash flooding after major wildfires. The Highline Fire burned for weeks in the Rim Country.
Saturday, up to 1.5" of rain fell in about 20 minutes right on top of the burned area. That water and debris which was picked up fed rapidly via washes and small creeks into Ellison Creek.
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There, the black, viscous, water turned west and barreled toward the Water Wheel swimming hole, where it hadn’t rained much at all. The water was basically following a funnel right toward the unknowing swimmers.
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In moments, the creek went from docile to deadly. The USGS flow gauges on the East Verde are not working so we don’t know how much water was plunging down the narrow gap.
It is a scary scenario and one that should remind all of us that flash flooding can occur even in places where it hasn’t rained. And the threat is even greater in the mountains of Arizona.
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