Flash Flood Fatalities Near Payson & East Verde Closure

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Tough_Boots
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Flash Flood Fatalities Near Payson & East Verde Closure

Post by Tough_Boots »

Monsoon season is here. Be careful everyone.

http://www.abc15.com/n...

view East Verde Closure
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chumley
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Re: Flash Flood Fatalities Near Payson

Post by chumley »

updated information regarding a Search and Rescue operation off Forest Service Road 420 at the Cold Springs Swimming Hole North of Payson, Arizona.... On July 15, 2017, at approximately 3:19 p.m., the Gila County Sheriff’s Office received a 9-1-1 call regarding a Search and Rescue Operation around the Cold Springs Swimming Hole....
Four individuals have been confirmed deceased and search operations continue for remaining missing individuals. At this time the First Crossing and Second Crossing on Houston Mesa Road as well as Waterwheel are closed.
Cold Spring is on Ellison Creek on private ranch property. FR420 is the road you hike to Ellison Creek Cascades. I believe this is the location this occurred. (Six are still missing)
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big_load
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Re: Flash Flood Fatalities Near Payson

Post by big_load »

:(
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chumley
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Re: Flash Flood Fatalities Near Payson

Post by chumley »

I figured that this would make its way to social media soon enough given the popularity of the swimming hole. As it turns out a friend of several HAZ folks was there yesterday.

Brandon, his friend Joe, and his dog all made it out ok, but his report is that they were at the base of the Ellison Creek Cascade (the one with the iconic stepped log) when a wall of water rushed over the top, sweeping everybody downstream.

He managed to get to a higher rock in the middle of the flood in what looks to be at least 100 yards downstream before filming a few minutes of dramatic video. His video wasn't made public so I can't share it here, but I did grab a couple of screenshots to give an idea of what things looked like yesterday afternoon.
cascade in background
cascade in background
waiting for helicopter to get him
waiting for helicopter to get him
looking the other way
looking the other way
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Sredfield
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Re: Flash Flood Fatalities Near Payson

Post by Sredfield »

I wonder if the bulk of the water came down Ellison Creek from below the Highline Fire, or the East Verde. I checked in this morning with the guys on the trail crew who are working about a mile west of Webber Creek/Geronimo
TH, and they said the storm came over the rim from the east/north east, pretty much right over where the Highline Fire burned. Webber Creek did not appear to have had much flow from this storm at all.
Shawn
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chumley
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Re: Flash Flood Fatalities Near Payson

Post by chumley »

@Sredfield
It came from the Highline Fire/Ellison Creek side, not East Verde. In fact the NWS issued a Flash Flood Warning yesterday saying exactly that:
BULLETIN - EAS ACTIVATION REQUESTED
Flash Flood Warning
National Weather Service Flagstaff AZ
143 PM MST SAT JUL 15 2017

The National Weather Service in Flagstaff has issued a

* Flash Flood Warning for...
Gila County in east central Arizona...

* Until 445 PM MST

* At 142 PM MST, Doppler radar indicated thunderstorms producing
heavy rain over the Highline Fire scar. Flash flooding within the
scar and downstream is expected to begin shortly.

* Some locations that will experience flooding include...
Whispering Pines, Bonita Creek Estates, Ellison Creek Estates, La
Cienega Estates, Pyle Ranch.

PRECAUTIONARY/PREPAREDNESS ACTIONS...

Move to higher ground now. Act quickly to protect your life.

Heavy rainfall will likely trigger life threatening flash floods and
debris flows in and near the Highline fire scar. Some roadways and
trails within and downstream of the scar, including Forest Road 112,
may be inundated or washed out. Homes downstream of the scar in the
Bonita Creek, Ellison Creek, Pyle Ranch, and La Cienega Ranch areas
may be impacted by high water and debris flows. Move away from
drainages now!
And later, extended the earlier warning with this one:
BULLETIN - EAS ACTIVATION REQUESTED
Flash Flood Warning
National Weather Service Flagstaff AZ
449 PM MST SAT JUL 15 2017

The National Weather Service in Flagstaff has issued a

* Flash Flood Warning for...
Gila County in east central Arizona...

* Until 615 PM MST

* At 446 PM MST, local law enforcement officials reported flash
flooding across the warned area. Flash flooding is already
occurring, with ongoing water rescues on Ellison Creek. Rainfall
has ended across the area for now, although additional rainfall
could develop later this evening.

* Some locations that will experience flooding include...
Whispering Pines, Bonita Creek Estates, Ellison Creek Estates, La
Cienega Estates, Pyle Ranch.
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The_Eagle
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Re: Flash Flood Fatalities Near Payson

Post by The_Eagle »

There's another storm forming over that rim area right now (1:30pm)
There is a very fine line between "hobby" and "mental illness."
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Tough_Boots
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Re: Flash Flood Fatalities Near Payson

Post by Tough_Boots »

Maybe in hindsight its easy to see that this was a bad place to be-- downstream from a fire impacted area during monsoon season. I'm not a big fan of closing areas BUT... seeing the high use of this area and the inevitability of flash flooding, they probably should have closed this area during NWS flash flood warning period.

Five years ago I helped sandbag the Sunflower ranger station along Sycamore Creek because they planned for flash flooding after the Sunflower Fire. We stacked those high and they were still nervous about it-- my back hurts just remembering that day. I wonder if with the growing popularity of spending time in the outdoors the FS will start to plan more consistently for flash flood events.
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chumley
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Re: Flash Flood Fatalities Near Payson

Post by chumley »

Those photos include one of Brandon sitting on the rock in the middle of the flood (where he took the videos that I screen capped in the post above). Wow.
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Re: Flash Flood Fatalities Near Payson

Post by trekkin_gecko »

update: http://www.paysonroundup.com/news/gila_ ... 85241.html

this is just so sad

@chumley this sounds like your friend
"They also rescued a man, not with the group, about three-quarters of a mile upstream, stranded on a rock in the middle of the river"

edit/update:
http://www.abc15.com/news/region-northe ... ole?page=2

some unbelievable video
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te_wa
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Re: Flash Flood Fatalities Near Payson

Post by te_wa »

man. this is horrible. i was just at wcc today, and as i saw the clouds rolling in @ the upper reaches of wcc, i told my hiking partner we need to be cautious. we left at around 2:10 pm. looking at the doppler on her phone, it was clear the huge storm system rolled right across the upper reaches of wcc, and also around willow valley - we passed several cars going out and i told one kid he needed to watch for the storm.. it was just minutes after i read this story online.

If there are heavy clouds and thunder within 20 miles upstream of where you are, GET GONE. one gal was hiking in w/ i'd assume a boyfriend/husband and a 5yo boy. i told them to watch out for that big storm. she replied something like... "why should i be concerned about a little rain?"

welp.
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chumley
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Re: Flash Flood Fatalities Near Payson

Post by chumley »

@te_wa
As mentioned earlier in this thread, but not mentioned nearly enough in media reports (IMO), the flood on Ellison Creek Saturday was greatly exacerbated by the Highline Fire which burned in the upper reaches of the Ellison Creek watershed earlier this summer.

Not to diminish the dangers of potential flash flooding from monsoon storms along any watercourse, especially in narrows found in some parts of WCC, but what happened along Ellison was an extraordinary occurrence. The conditions upstream in WCC right now don't favor a similar fire-scarred runoff and erosion event.

Nonetheless, if I was in WCC when storms were booming upstream, I'd probably opt for hiking out too.

---
In other news, had anybody ever heard of the "Cold Springs swimming hole" before yesterday? I wonder where the name came from. I think it was GCSO that described it that way in the first reports and it just sort ended up being called that. Perhaps it's an older local name for the area?
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Re: Flash Flood Fatalities Near Payson

Post by hikeaz »

delete
Last edited by hikeaz on Jul 17 2017 6:43 pm, edited 5 times in total.
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Tough_Boots
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Re: Flash Flood Fatalities Near Payson

Post by Tough_Boots »

chumley wrote: In other news, had anybody ever heard of the "Cold Springs swimming hole" before yesterday? I wonder where the name came from. I think it was GCSO that described it that way in the first reports and it just sort ended up being called that. Perhaps it's an older local name for the area?
The listing on Alltrails (created in 2010) calls it Cold Springs so there is some evidence to it being a commonly used name.
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big_load
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Re: Flash Flood Fatalities Near Payson

Post by big_load »

chumley wrote:
Not to diminish the dangers of potential flash flooding from monsoon storms along any watercourse, especially in narrows found in some parts of WCC, but what happened along Ellison was an extraordinary occurrence. The conditions upstream in WCC right now don't favor a similar fire-scarred runoff and erosion event.
I was awed by the vast quantity of trees in the debris in the videos and photos. I've only seen debris like that from fire-damaged areas.
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chumley
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Re: Flash Flood Fatalities Near Payson

Post by chumley »

Tough_Boots wrote:The listing on Alltrails (created in 2010) calls it Cold Springs so there is some evidence to it being a commonly used name.
Not that I'd take AllTrails as gospel, but that's just a GPS track that somebody posted and named Cold Springs. AT doesn't have a hike description by that name, though it does have descriptions listed for Water Wheel Falls and Ellison Creek Trail, both of which end at the cascade.

But it certainly seems as if there are locals who call it Cold Spring. I was just curious since I hadn't heard that name used before.
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Re: Flash Flood Fatalities Near Payson

Post by hikeaz »

..........................
Attachments
cold spring.png
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Re: Flash Flood Fatalities Near Payson

Post by chumley »

@hikeaz
chumley wrote:Cold Spring is on Ellison Creek on private ranch property.
Is there something useful on the map you attached that I'm missing?

Pre-1960, topo maps refer to Ellison Ranch as Cold Spring Ranch. Which makes sense since it was built adjacent to Cold Spring.

Cold Spring Campground at the end of FR420 is referenced in the HAZ writeup, but that seems to have disappeared over the years as well. It may have been on old FS maps, it isn't on any of the USGS historical topos.

I find it interesting that if locals knew of it as Cold Springs swimming hole that name didn't get more widespread use over the years. Maybe Ellison Creek Cascades is just one of those hiking names that @joebartels invented!? :sweat:
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