Taking steps against the storms

Courtesy photo/Dawn Houghtaling As monsoon storms threaten to bring post-fire flooding, Gila County is working with local communities to mitigate the impact.

As a Burned Area Emergency Response Team assesses the impact of the Telegraph and Mescal wildfires, Globe District Ranger Adam Bromley, with the Tonto National Forest, has been updating local communities on their findings.

According to a map the BAER Team prepared, much of the fire area experienced low-severity soil burn - 58 percent in the Mescal Fire and 54 percent in the Telegraph. There was also 29 percent moderate-severity soil burn in the Telegraph Fire and eight percent in the Mescal. Bromley said the low percentage of high-severity soil burn (0.6 percent in the Telegraph Fire, none in the Mescal) was because in most spots the fires did not burn the soil over an extended period of time.

In the aftermath, local communities are bracing for the threat of post-fire flooding brought on by monsoon storms. “If heavy rain hits the mountains, it’s going to come down pretty quick,” said Globe City Manager Paul Jepson.

To mitigate that danger, Gila County and local communities started working together on flood protection measures even before the flames died down; filling and distributing sandbags, cleaning up washes and creeks, and installing new monitoring equipment in local watersheds. The county is working with JE Fuller Hydrology & Geomorphology on post-fire flood mitigation, with Fuller helping determine where to strategically place sandbags and Jersey barriers. In a public meeting at Globe City Hall Thursday evening, JE Fuller engineers presented and explained maps they had prepared predicting flood zones based on light to severe rainfall. 

There are two major ways the community can assist in post-fire flood mitigation.

One is by volunteering to fill and stack sandbags. The county has a sandbag filling station at their Public Works yard, available for both self-service and delivery to residents, and the City of Globe was awaiting the arrival of their own sandbag filling machine. At press time, county staff and volunteer teams had filled more than 15,000 sandbags and had 100,000 empty ones available. Volunteers have included local 4H youth, Globe High School football players, Boy Scouts, Team Rubicon and Resolution Copper employees. Town of Miami and City of Globe staff have also lent a hand at the yard.

Sandbags have been delivered to Miami, Globe, Dripping Springs, Cobre Valley Regional Medical Center and Roosevelt. CVRMC was also reinforced by Jersey barriers delivered and set up by ADOT, and the county has built a new emergency access road to the hospital via Ragus Road and Highway 60.

Volunteer teams are welcome to sign up for a weekday morning or afternoon, tying and stacking the 35-40-pound sandbags. To pre-arrange a shift, contact Stacey Espinoza at 928-402-4336 or [email protected]

Cleanups of local washes and creeks are another key measure the county has launched, and another place where the community can assist. Some of the drainages in need of clearing cross private property, and the county needs permission to access that land. Residents can help by allowing such permission through a cooperative agreement form that can be downloaded from https://www.gilacountyaz.gov/news_detail_T5_R516.php, facebook.co/gilacountygovernment or facebook.com/gilacohealthem. The form can be also be picked up at county offices, Globe City Hall and Miami Town Hall.

As July began, nine local contractors had been hired to clear creeks and washes of brush, debris and downed trees as well as cutting other trees level; three of them were either at work or about to start. Two were assigned to Bloody Tanks Wash, with one already in action, and a third was set to begin work in the Globe area on July 5.

In addition the county has set up four flow-monitoring cameras and three new rain gauges, and repaired three existing gauges, in the Russell Gulch, Bloody Tanks Wash and Pinal Creek watersheds. The cameras will take pictures every 15 minutes, increasing to pictures every five minutes when water flows down the drainage. The cameras and rain gauges were expected to be operating by July 7. They will be linked to the county website, available to Gila County Health & Emergency Management for notification. “The idea is for these cameras and gauges to be available to the public as well,” said Assistant County Manager Homero Vela. “They’ll help us provide some lead time in notifying folks of imminent flows that may be coming.”

In the event of flooding, Gila County Emergency Manager Carl Melford advised residents to shelter in place or seek higher ground rather than attempt to evacuate, and not to attempt driving through flowing washes. Melford also encouraged residents to sign up for the county’s Everbridge alert system, which provides emergency notifications by text, phone or email. 

Residents can sign up online at http://www.readygila.com/everbridge/ or by calling Gila County Health & Emergency Management at 928-402-8789.

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