Editorial: February historically means flood season for Verde Valley
While this weekend’s recipe of snow in the high country and warmer rains to the south produced minor flooding in the Verde Valley, it bears emphasis that February always has been the peak month for flooding along Oak Creek, Beaver Creek and the Verde River.
You can never be over prepared during flood season, especially, it seems, in February.
This weekend’s storm raised the Verde River to approximately the 10,000 cubic feet per second level, and, at most, was an inconvenience to those in some parts of the Verde Valley.
But it bears emphasis that historically peak flood levels in the Verde Valley – the kind that destroy homes – frequently occur in February.
The three biggest floods in the recorded history of high-water marks on the Verde River occurred in February. The granddaddy of these gully-washers took place Feb. 20, 1993.
Until then, the severity of Verde River floods was measured by the deluge from February 1920, when floodwaters topped out at 50,600 cubic feet per second at the Clarkdale gauge station, according to the U.S. Geological Survey.
Prior to the 1993 flood, the high-water mark most locals measured Verde floods by occurred Feb. 15, 1980. Frank and Peggy Funk of Bridgeport had commemorated that flood with a marker near their riverfront property that showed the river rose 27 feet in the 1980 flood.
“It went eight feet higher than the old mark,” Peggy Funk told The Verde Independent following the Feb. 20, 1993 flood. “This time it measured at 35 feet. It came up to the crest of our bank, right up near the gazebo.”
Frank Brewsaugh, then the field office chief for the U.S. Geological Survey in Flagstaff, said the floodwaters crested at 63,000 cfs at the Clarkdale gauge station and 105,000 cfs at the monitoring station nine miles southeast of Camp Verde.
“This is the extreme for our period of record,” said Brewsaugh, who added the USGS flood monitoring records dated back to 1915.
Dallas Lane, then a captain with the Cottonwood Fire Department and local disaster services chairman for the American Red Cross, said 250 families had to be evacuated from their homes. Lane told The Verde Independent that the local devastation occurred down a 26-mile stretch of the Verde River, one-half mile wide, from Patio Town in Clarkdale to Verde Lakes Estates in Camp Verde.
Hopefully, we’ll never see another flood like that in the Verde valley.
But if we do, it likely will happen in February.
That seems to be the way it’s always been: Genesis 7:11-12 “... in the second month, and on the 17th day of that month, that very day all the springs of the great deep broke through, and the floodgates of the heavens opened. And the rain fell on the earth 40 days and 40 nights.”