On Saturday August 18th around 10 p.m. Tribal officials of the Havasu Tribe located in Supi, (in the Grand Canyon) are notified that water levels at Havasu Creek are rising, according to the National Weather Service. Without much warning, and having over 250 Campers and Hikers in a section of a Canyon where breathtaking waterfalls, and beauty surround you, people got to see what happens when 8 inches of rain falls in the desert 30 miles away. Flash Flood.
“We couldn’t see anything. We could just hear how strong the water was, it was shaking the canyon,” she said. “Everybody was shouting, ‘We’ve got to get to higher ground.’ “
Here is a timeline of the occurance:
- Midnight: Water levels “looked bad,” said Warren Youngman, an official with the Bureau of Indian Affairs.
- 3 a.m. Sunday: An unknown number of bridges and three homes along the creek are washed away
- 5:30 a.m.: An evacuation order is issued. Campers are told to grab their belongings and return to Supai Village, where a Blackhawk helicopter awaits to transport them to Hualapai Hilltop
- 9 a.m.: Water levels have risen 8 feet above normal.
- Through the morning and afternoon: Once residents reach the hilltop, they are taken either by bus or van to a Red Cross shelter at Peach Springs, about 60 miles southwest of Supai.
Here are some things to remember while camping and hiking in the desert, or anywhere that might be a potential flash flood area. All narrow canyons are potentially hazardous. Flash floods, cold water, and strong currents present real dangers that can be life-threatening. Your safety depends on your own good judgment, adequate preparation, and constant attention. By entering a narrow canyon, you are assuming a risk. Rivers, streams, and waterfalls can be treacherous at all times. One big clue you had better get to high ground is when a waterfall or stream is blue, or clear, then suddenly turns brown. It can be a bright sunny day outside, but the flood could be 30 – 40 miles away.
Especially during the summer months and monsoon season, thunderstorms can move into canyon country very quickly and drop large amounts of rain. This rain concentrates with little warning in narrow canyons and washes and causes flash flooding. When the water is forced into these narrow areas, a wall of water forms that pushes along with great force anything in its path, including sand, dirt, rocks, boulders, shrubs, and trees. In the Havasu case, this is exacly what happened.
When hiking, be observant. If you see rain, even 30 to 40 miles away, or if it is during or after a rain thunderstorm, avoid washes and canyon bottoms. If you believe that a flash flood may be approaching, immediately climb out of the canyon bottom and to high ground. Flash floods have been reported to sound like freight trains.
Here is the before and after video of the Havasu Flood of 08.