Managing Semi-Arid Watersheds: Watershed Basics - Safety in Arizona Watersheds
You may have heard news stories about people being swept away by flash
floods. If you enjoy the outdoors and like to hike or ride in the canyons
and arroyos of Arizona, the following is some information on how to be
safe and stay alive.
First of all, it is important to understand what
a watershed is and how it affects the movement of water on the landscape.
When it rains in Arizona, it is usually during a storm event where there
is a lot of rain in a short period of time. In this sort of even, the
ground cannot absorb all the rain, so much of it runs off. Large canyons
and small arroyos have all been created by fast moving water that is a
result of several acreseven hundreds or thousands of acresof
land that shed water off of its slopes into the valleys creating streams
and rivers of rushing water that disappear shortly after the rain stops.
The predominant storm season in Arizona is during the months of July
and August. Morning skies may be sunny and blue, but large and powerful
storms can appear very quickly in the early afternoon. When storm clouds
are looming and rain is falling in the mountains, or uplands, water is
moving downhill and quickly filling arroyos and canyons. People that are
hiking or riding in these waterways don't sense the danger when the sun
is shining where they are and the storm seems distant enough to be of
no concern. This is when tragedy can strike. A wall of water can appear
almost instantly, with no warning, and sweep away unsuspecting visitors.
Several hikers have perished in recent years in narrow canyons.
The best advice is to closely monitor weather reports and heed all storm
and flash flood warnings. Stay out of canyons and arroyos during the storm
season if possible. However, if you do visit these areas during the storm
season, make sure you conduct your activities in the early to mid morning
hours. Always know where you are on the landscape and what is happening
with the weather. If rain is on the horizon, move to higher ground.
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