Parts of Arizona have been hit by devastating floods, with the city of Flagstaff declaring a state of emergency after being flooded with streams that turned streets into dark, fast-flowing streams.
IN a widely shared video, a person shouting “Oh my God!” filmed as a Toyota Prius was shown quickly carried down a Flagstaff street by a violent swell of dark water. The city, located between the mountains of northern Arizona and considered a gateway to the Grand Canyon, has been thrown by several days of rain, prompting local officials to urge people to put in place.
“Water was flowing into the front door, and all we could do was try to block the door and prevent more water from entering,” said local resident David Gilley, who videotaped waist-high water accumulating outside the window after 2 p.m. 5 inches of rain fell in just two days.
The monsoon rains also swelled across the Colorado River, causing a flood that killed a person who was on a rafting trip in the Grand Canyon. Such floods have long been part of an environment that, although largely desert, experiences eruptions of intense rainfall.
However, the flood in Flagstaff appears to have been aided by the arenas of a severe 2019 fire that burned away vegetation over a large area of a nearby mountain that allowed water to flow unhindered into the city.
“You can see in the video of the Prius moving along that a lot of mud coming through, which is a contribution to the combustion,” said Upmanu Lall, director of the Columbia Water Center at Columbia University.
Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey issued a series of tweets about the emergency.
High temperatures have burned western states in recent weeks, with Flagstaff hitting 94F (34.4C) on June 15, the highest daily temperature recorded for the city, breaking the previous high in 1974.
Lall said long periods of dry weather can help burn fires and leave loose soil that can cause a wave of dirt to flow when a sudden flood arrives.
The western United States has been in the grip of droughts for the past 20 years, with the current unusual drought and heat levels likely exacerbated by man-made global warming.
“If we have dry, warmer conditions that follow active monsoon years, the propensity for fires and dirt flows will increase, which the climate community highlights,” he said.
In 2018, heavy rains that followed a period of intense wildfires in California caused floods and mudslides that injured hundreds of people and caused the evacuation of hundreds of homes.
The climate crisis is also linked to the severe floods currently being experienced in Europe, where more than 100 people are dying after floods in western Germany and Belgium.
Climate scientists, who have warned that floods will become more frequent in some places as a warming atmosphere is able to hold more moisture, have expressed shock at the scale of the disaster.
Flagstaff is a popular gateway town for visitors traveling north from the Phoenix area to the Grand Canyon.
Grand Canyon National Park officials on Friday identified a woman in Michigan as the person found dead in cold water after a flood swept through a commercial rafting group overnight campground along the Colorado River.
Rebecca Copeland, 29, of Ann Arbor, was found Thursday near the camp, washed away Wednesday night by a stream of water rushing through a castle canal about a quarter of a mile from the group that used an established site for camping. said park officials in a statement.
The Associated Press contributed reporting