This morning, I wake up to find a river running through my property.
It really came as no surprise. After all, Cemetery Wash, one of the five big drainages that feed the Hassayampa River near Wickenburg, runs right through our 2-1/2 acre lot. In fact, about half our land is actually in the wash. But the wash is wide and sandy and it takes a heck of a lot of rain to get it flowing.
Yesterday, we had a heck of a lot of rain. I don’t know the local numbers but I think it reached an inch down in Phoenix. According to the Weather Channel, one inch of rain in Phoenix is like 8 inches of rain in New Orleans or 5 inches of rain in New York. (I’m not quite sure what they mean by that, but it does sound impressive.)
So after a good soak throughout the day, Cemetery Wash was primed for flowing. All it took was the heavy downpour we had overnight. This morning, when I woke up, there was a brown river flowing through the yard. A river running so swiftly, that I could hear it from the house, even with the windows closed.
Of course, now that the rain has let up to a drizzle, the water’s flow is receding. An hour has gone by since I woke up and the flow is now no more than a narrow stream of brown water. An hour ago, it would have been impossible to leave the house; my driveway was under two feet of running water in some places. Now, I could drive — or even walk — across. A few years ago, I was home alone when a big storm hit. The wash filled with water, all the way across, to a depth of at least four feet. We had some trailers parked in the wash and one of them — a 12-foot flatbed — was washed a mile downstream (see photo). It took a back-hoe to get it out of the ground. The other trailer, a 3500-lb 2-horse horse trailer, was slowly washed about 150 yards downstream. Thank heaven it didn’t get washed over on its side. As it was, we had to replace all wheel bearings in both trailers before we could use them again.
People think its crazy that we live in a house that can be cut off from the rest of town by floodwaters. What they don’t understand, however, is that the flood seldom lasts more than a few hours. Even the big flood I witnessed lasted less than 4 hours. When it was over, I drove the Suburban out into the wet sand, hooked up the horse trailer, and pulled it out to higher ground, just in case it started flowing again. Our driveway is concrete — even across the wash — and although we occasionally lose bits and pieces of it, it usually remains passable after the waters recede. And our house is at least 50 feet above wash level, on a rocky outcropping. So we’re not worried at all about losing the house.
Today, if the ceilings rise a bit (the clouds are still quite low), I’ll take Zero-Mike-Lima up for a flight over town. I’m sure plenty of washes are still flowing and the river must be quite a site to see. I love watching water flow from the helicopter. I love tracing the streams up to their sources or down to the Hassayampa. In weather like this, I can often see waterfalls from the air — waterfalls in the desert!