Families survive flash flood

PHOENIX - It took only a matter of minutes for a dry creek bed to become a rushing river, fueled by a flash flood.

The dangerous encounter happened on Saturday, July 15, 2017 at Red Creek, along the Verde River.

"It was still barreling down super fast," Molly Stumpo told 12 News. She was at the creek to enjoy a day of fun with her family and friends, including Katie Weeks. 

"It was zero to a hundred in zero seconds. Literally," Weeks said. "You would have no warning. I understand why they call it a flash flood now."

Weeks, Stumpo and their families were lucky and avoided the wall of water. 

But that same afternoon, some 40 miles away in Cold Springs, 10 people including the Raya-Garcia family were not so lucky.  They were swept away and killed in a flash flood that was even stronger.

"My heart goes out to them and I can understand how it could have happened," Weeks said.  "Don't  mess with Mother Nature. Don't do it. Heed the warnings. Obey the signs."

The warning signs were there for both swimming areas, but they were never heard. The National Weather Service issued a flash flood warning, but neither family received one, because there was no cell service. There were thunderstorms north of them, but it wasn't raining where they were.

"That's what makes these so dangerous," said National Weather Service meteorologist Jaret Rogers. "You may not have any idea there's a thunderstorm producing a lot of rainfall a few miles away and that can produce a lot of rainfall and run off." 

Rogers advises people who are in low-lying, drainage areas to not only pay attention to warnings, but also watches. They are usually issued hours before the storms. He also recommends having a weather radio, it can often receive a signal where cell phones cannot. 

This is important, because flash and river floods kill more people every year than any other severe weather.  Last year they killed 126 people nationwide. In 2015 they killed 13 people, including 10 children on the Arizona-Utah border. 

"I see how easily too now it could've been any of us as well. and that's how quickly it happens," Weeks said. "We realized how lucky we are, how very very lucky we are." 

Now Katie Weeks and Molly Stumpo will use their close encounter as a lesson, to pay attention to the weather around them, so they never have to witness the fury of a flash flood again.

© 2017 KPNX-TV


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