From a trickle of water flowing between rocks in a dry, barren, mountainous landscape to a roaring river in a matter of minutes: monsoon floods in the southwest rise rapidly. Every summer, extreme meteorologist Red Timmer, best known for chasing storms, goes on the “Flood Chase” in which he aims to capture the moment when rainwater hits dry land. Turns the landscape into a dangerous wall of water.
A dramatic video recently captured by Timmer perfectly illustrates the North American monsoon that was in full swing in early August in Willhite, Arizona, a town just north of Phoenix. The rushing water created a roaring river in the Arizona desert landscape.
Watching Timmer pull off these “flush-flood intercepts,” as he describes them, is awe-inspiring, and many who watch these videos may ask: How did he do it?
“I’ve always been interested in small-scale meteorology that includes storms, lake-effect ice and flash floods, but I love the hybrid atmospheric and geographic approach to chasing flash floods,” Tamer said. told AccuWeather in an interview. “It also requires all the senses — you can often hear a flash flood coming minutes before it happens.”
AccuWeather meteorologist Alex De Silva explained that in the Southwest, states like Arizona and New Mexico are typically dry for most of the year, relying heavily on the monsoon season for annual rainfall.
The dry, hard, cracked ground and sparse vegetation in the Southwest make it nearly impossible for any water to absorb into the ground, often resulting in runoff when it rains. And it only takes an inch or two of rain to create a life-threatening situation.
“Flash floods can happen very quickly. Because the Southwest typically doesn’t get as much rain as the East, it can only take a small amount of rain to cause flash flooding,” DaSilva said.
Temer captured a moment people rarely see last week. The arroyos, or dry stream beds, in the area were quickly filled by the surge of water, with seemingly no end in sight.
Water flowing down an arroyo in Wilhite, Arizona. (Extreme Meteorologist Red Timmer)
As the water flows down the bank of the newly formed river, created in mere seconds in front of Tamer’s camera, a flash flood forms the front wall.
These ravines and slot canyons carry the fast-moving water many miles away from the storm, which can affect areas that have not received rain and pose a threat to hikers who are not familiar with the weather. .
“I use radar-derived precipitation data and target storms that show even a slight curvature in the radar reflectivity,” Timmer explained. “That means they’re producing a lot of rain and releasing the heat energy stored in the water molecules, causing the storms to spin up a bit.”
Temer explained to AccuWeather in 2018 that when he first started chasing the flood in the Southwest, as the water flowed from the Areos, debris came with it, causing what he described as a “debris plug.” does.
According to Temer, when arroyos don’t flood in a while, they usually have a large plug of debris. Due to ground friction, the debris plug moves slowly, allowing the flood to strengthen behind the plug.
“I also target areas with old burn scars from previous wildfires, because they can flood more easily and often have debris flows or debris plugs along the flood front wall,” Temer said. “Debris gives floods even more destructive power.”
In a video he captured in 2018, a plug of debris can be seen blocking a powerful current of water. His videos are just another reminder not to underestimate the power of fast-moving water. An afternoon outside or a hike in the canyons can quickly turn into a deadly situation.
“It’s all about patience and waiting for the flood to come,” Temer said. “Here in the desert southwest the ground surface doesn’t absorb water very quickly, especially on burn marks, so it only takes 0.75″ of rain per hour to cause a deadly flood.”
According to the National Weather Service (NWS), floods kill more people annually than hurricanes, tornadoes, and lightning combined, and although flash flooding is a special type of flood, it still accounts for a large number of deaths each year. causes
Earlier this month, heavy overnight rains led to deadly flooding in eastern Kentucky, resulting in more than 38 deaths.
AccuWeather forecasters say these funny videos illustrate how dangerous flash flooding can be and highlight the importance of following all weather warnings and evacuation orders.
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