92nd American Meteorological Society Annual Meeting (January 22-26, 2012)

Monday, 23 January 2012
From Fires to Floods: How the NWS Office in Tucson, Arizona Increased Flash Flood Awareness After a Historic Wildfire Season
Hall E (New Orleans Convention Center )
John J. Brost, NOAA/NWSFO Tucson, Arizona, Tucson, AZ; and G. Sampson, K. Drozd, E. Boyle, and R. Fliehman

Poster PDF (5.7 MB)

Historic wildfires burned across southeast Arizona drawing national media attention in June 2011. The Horseshoe 2 and Monument fires destroyed or damaged over 80 residences, businesses and other structures. Additionally these fires modified soil conditions such that flash flood occurrence and severity could be magnified by over an order of magnitude. Thus any post-wildfire flash flooding and debris flows that occur could cause damage more devastating than the fires.

Southeast Arizona rapidly transitioned from the spring drought conditions to the wet summer Monsoon season by the first week of July. The Monsoon season is characterized by frequent thunderstorm activity (almost daily over the mountains), severe convection, heavy rainfall and flash flooding. The National Weather Service recognized the immediate need to raise awareness of the increased potential for flash flooding and debris flows in the burned areas. Within a few days of the Monument fire becoming contained, heavy rainfall caused a flash flood which damaged multiple homes, closed major roads, caused a debris flow and re-sculptured the water channels.

This presentation will discuss how the level of awareness for flash floods was raised in a very short amount of time within the affected communities and what educational materials were used. In additional to traditional methods, emerging technologies, social media applications and multiple interactions with various public agencies were employed to help educate those affected.

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