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Summary

The Schultz Fire was started on June 20th, 2010 and burned over 15,000 acres of mountainous terrain northeast of Flagstaff in the San Francisco Peaks. The Burn Area Emergency Response team assessed that the 55% of the Schultz Fire Scar was severely burned.  Significant monsoonal rainfall fell over the Schultz Fire scar on July 20th, 2010 and led to excessive runoff over the severely burned landscape. The runoff produced debris flows and flash flooding in communities downslope from the fire scar. The communities most affected were Wupatki Trails, Doney Park, Timberline, Hutchison Acres and Sunset Crater Estates. Trained spotters reported sheet flow depths between one and two feet, with areas near washes deeper. U.S. Highway 89 was closed for almost three hours to help with response to the flooding. One death was reported from this flooding event.

Timeline
 
Map of the Schultz Fire burn scar area where heavy rainfall occurred on July 20th, 2010.

Map of the Schultz Fire burn scar area where heavy rainfall occurred on July 20th, 2010. Figure credit: USDA Forest Service, Schultz Fire BAER Report

Radar image of Monsoon thunderstorms that produced the heavy rainfall over the Schultz Fire burn scar area.

Loop of half degree reflectivity from the KFSX radar (12:33 PM to 2:01 PM MST) showing Monsoon thunderstorms that produced the heavy rainfall over the Schultz Fire burn scar area on July 20th, 2010. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

  • Late June 2010:
    • Schultz Fire burned across the eastern slopes of the San Francisco Peaks
  • Sunday, July 18th:
    • An increase in the threat of flooding was emphasized for the upcoming week due to an expected uptick in convective activity
  • Late Morning of Tuesday, July 20th:
    • Monsoon-related convection begins to form on the San Francisco Peaks and across northern Arizona
  • Early Afternoon of July 20th:
    • Monsoon thunderstorms produced an estimated one to three inches of rainfall on the Schultz Fire burn scar area
  • Afternoon of July 20th:
    • Rainfall ends on the fire burn scar
    • Flash flooding and debris sheet flows are ongoing in communities downslope of the Schultz Fire burn scar area​
      • ​Sheet flow depth estimated between one and two feet, deeper near washes 
  • Evening of July 20th:
    • Flash flooding in area communities comes to an end, but significant impacts remain
  • July 21st:
    • Governor's Disaster Declaration was declared by the Governor of Arizona
  • Remainder of Summer 2010
    • Fifteen additional lesser-impactful flooding events occurred in a similar area
  • October 4th:
    • Presidential Declaration 1940 was signed by President Obama
Impacts
  • Widespread flooding and debris sheet flows in the Timberline, Hutchison Acres and Wupatki Trails communities
    • Approximately 45 homes had flooded interiors
    • Debris flows estimated to be 2 feet deep in many locations and deeper in washes by a spotter
  • Significant flooding also occurred in Doney Park after flood waters crossed U.S. Hwy 89
    • U.S. Hwy 89 was closed for approximately 2.5 hours by local Law Enforcement
      • Limited access to area neighborhoods and residences
    • Approximately 40 homes in Doney Park had flooded interiors
  • The City of Flagstaff's inner-basin water line was destroyed.
  • One death was reported
  • Red Cross evacuation shelter was established at a local school
    • 250 people evacuated to the shelter
  • Significant mitigation efforts were completed in the years following trying to prevent similar events in the future
    • Coconino County, the state of Arizona and the federal government spent tens of millions of dollars on the mitigation and restoration efforts
    • Over four miles of jersey barriers were placed to prevent future flooding impacts to area structures
    • 620,000 sandbags were filled and distributed to residents
    • Culverts were cleaned and replaced with upsized versions to allow more waterflow
    • Modelling of future flood events suggested up to 300 homes were at high risk for future flooding
Pictures


Clearing mud and debris leftover by flooding.

Clearing mud and debris leftover by flooding. Photo Credit: Arizona Daily Sun, Josh Biggs

Flood mitigation work for areas downslope of the Schultz Fire burn area was completed in the summer of 2015 after the flooding in 2010 occurred.

Flood mitigation work for areas downslope of the Schultz Fire burn area was completed in the summer of 2015 after the flooding in 2010 occurred. Photo Credit: Arizona Daily Sun, Josh Biggs

Flooding impacted many of the yards of neighborhood houses.

Flooding impacted many of the yards of neighborhood houses. Photo Credit: Arizona Daily Sun, Josh Biggs

Clearing debris out of a drainage that was clogged during the flooding.

Clearing debris out of a drainage that was clogged during the flooding. Photo Credit: Arizona Daily Sun, Josh Biggs

A wall of flood water and debris hit this home.

A wall of flood water and debris hit this home. Photo Credit: Arizona Daily Sun, Josh Biggs

Debris and mud was forced into a house from the flooding.

Debris and mud was forced into a house from the flooding. Photo Credit: Arizona Daily Sun, Josh Biggs

Debris and mud was forced into a house from the flooding.

Debris and mud was forced into a house from the flooding. Photo Credit: Arizona Daily Sun, Josh Biggs

Flood waters and debris flows transported mud to the Chevron located at the intersection of U.S. Hwy 89 and Campbell Ave.

Flood waters and debris flows transported mud to the Chevron located at the intersection of U.S. Hwy 89 and Campbell Ave. Photo Credit: Arizona Daily Sun, Josh Biggs

Flood waters inundating the intersection of Campbell Ave and U.S. Hwy 89.

Flood waters inundating the intersection of Campbell Ave and U.S. Hwy 89. Photo Credit: Eric S. Neitzel

Rocks were left on area roads after flood waters receded.

Rocks were left on area roads after flood waters receded. Photo Credit: Arizona Daily Sun, Josh Biggs

A resident is trying to keep debris away from their home as flood waters rush through their backyard.

A resident is trying to keep debris away from their home as flood waters rush through their backyard. Photo Credit: Arizona Daily Sun, Josh Biggs

Sheet flows flooded Landfill Road and adjoining areas on the south side of U.S. Hwy 89.

Sheet flows flooded Landfill Road and adjoining areas on the south side of U.S. Hwy 89. Photo Credit: USFS, K. Koestner

Meteorology

The Schultz Fire burned along the eastern slopes on the San Francisco Peaks in June 2010. A hydrophobic soil layer was created on the Schultz Fire burn scar as a result of the fire. By late July, the Southwest monsoon season was in full effect with thunderstorms producing heavy amounts of rainfall. Eventually, a radar and gauge estimated one to three inches of rain fell across the Schultz Fire burn scar in the early afternoon of July 20th, 2010. The hydrophobic layer leftover by the fire aided in funneling the rainfall into drainages that flow eastward out of the fire scar. The flowing drainages and washes eventually produced flash floods and debris sheet flows as banks were overtopped. The flash floods and debris sheet flows swept through the communities of Wupatki Trails, Doney Park, Timberline, Hutchison Acres and Sunset Crater Estates located on either side of highway 89 northeast of Flagstaff.

Points of Contact

For more information on impacts and general inquiries about this event, please reference the contacts below:

  • National Weather Service:
    • Brian Klimowski, Meteorologist-in-Charge at (928) 556-9161 ext. 222 or brian.klimowski@noaa.gov
    • Tony Merriman, Warning Coordination Meteorologist at (928) 556-9161 ext. 223 or tony.merriman@noaa.gov
  • Coconino County Emergency Management: at (928) 679-7120