U.S. Geological Survey calls Tuesday flood a 'flow'
PHOENIX (CBS5) -
Flood waters that swamped parts of the Valley likely exceeded historical records. So much so, scientists are referring to the flood waters through Maricopa County as a "flow." Thursday, surveyors from the Arizona-branch of the U.S. Geological Survey began mapping the flood zone. They can figure out how high the water got and how long it may be before a repeat drenching.
The powerful wall of water that rushed down Skunk Creek was too destructive just to be called a flood.
"It caused water to flow out onto I-17," said Jim Leenhouts, Director of the USGS Arizona Water Science Center.
Experts like Leenhouts described Thursday's muddy rapids as something stronger.
"It actually erodes away the sediment and moves away some of the bigger rocks," Leenhouts explained as he pointed out deep grooves in the ground left by the force of the water.
Thursday, Leenhouts' crew started collecting data from locations that got the most soaked. They'll look at nine total over the coming days.
"How much water came through at what's called the "peak," Leenhouts said as he explained their quest to find the "highest level of flow."
The results will give his team a lot of information Leenhouts said. "You can estimate how often that kind of event is likely to happen," he added.
Leenhouts said the water that washed over Dove Valley Rd. east of the I-17 got way outside of the boundaries of its original culvert. Surveyors doing measurements on Thursday told CBS 5 News the width of the water was at least 400 feet wide.
The USGS monitors flow in streams and rivers and the information they get is routinely used for water supply management, monitoring floods and droughts, bridge and road design, and determination of flood risk.
"My big concern is the kids that live around here," said Dan Muller, who lives in a subdivision further down Skunk Creek from the location where the USGS scientists were working. "When it floods they want to get into it," Muller added.
Muller says his "Santa Fe Ridge" subdivision near Union Hills Dr. and 51st Ave. always floods whenever it rains.
"People try to go through the flood water in their vehicle and get stuck," Muller added.
Some had said the floods the Valley was hit with in the last two weeks only happen every thousand years. "Which really doesn't mean something happens every ten years, or hundred years, but it does help you understand how often something's likely to happen," Leenhouts explained.
Those scientists will also survey sites at Cave Creek, New River, and the Agua Fria and Hassayampa Rivers.
In addition, they're repairing several stream gauges damaged in Tuesday's flow. Those are like "black boxes" that record everything happening in the water then sends back the data to the USGS.
Copyright 2014 CBS 5 (KPHO Broadcasting Corporation) All rights reserved.