EPOD 20th - Flash Flood on Cave Creek

September 26, 2020


We’re celebrating 20 years of Earth Science Picture of the Day during the month of September! Today’s photo features a popular EPOD from the past. Thanks to all of our followers (on the blog, Facebook, Instagram and Twitter) for supporting us. Thanks also to all of you who’ve submitted your photos. We’re most appreciative. This EPOD was originally published October 19, 2006.

Provided by: Thomas McGuire
Summary Author: Thomas McGuire

Several flash floods have run down Cave Creek, north of Phoenix, Arizona since a major fire burned about 150 square miles (388 sq km) in the National Forest a year ago. For example, last September a flood of about 15,000 cu ft per second (cfs) roared down the creek with sediment and burned organic matter. Fortunately, there were no injuries and little property damage. In fact, the next morning I waded across the creek and barely got my shorts wet. Such streams are called flashy.

Cave Creek normally has surface flow at the above location from December to May and also after some monsoon storms in mid to late summer. The 4 images above were taken over a period of about 30 seconds on August 10, 2006. There wasn’t a drop of rain in town, but after a heads up from the town marshal, a friend and I caught the head of this flood in several places as it flowed out of the highlands. This flood peaked at about 2000 cfs and reached about 2-3 ft deep (0.6 - 0.9 m) at this location. These events cut off about 100 homes that can be accessed only by stream level crossings -- otherwise, a hike through several miles of desert scrub is required. Two deaths have occurred in flash flooding on nearby streams in the past couple of years.

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