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Expert: Arizona has Colorado-type flooding potential

According to ASU climate expert Randy Cerveny, Arizona doesn't need as much rainfall as Colorado to potentially trigger massive floods. (AP Photo/Brennan Linsley)

PHOENIX -- Colorado is dealing with what is being called a "500-year flood" that has left death and destruction in the Rocky Mountains. Arizona State University climate expert Randy Cerveny said Arizona also has the potential for devastating floods.

The potential is there, with far less rain than the amounts that triggered the Colorado flooding.

The summer wildfires in the Rockies are partially to blame for the Colorado flooding. In Arizona, Cerveny said the area burned in the Yarnell Hill Fire remains a concern.

"If you get big storms over that area, there's the possibility of mudflows and landslides, like they had in Colorado," Cerveny explained. "Vegetation is the key to holding the soil in place. Burn off that vegetation and that soil moves a lot easier."

Arizona's most vulnerable location to potential flooding is Oak Creek Canyon, "because of the number of people up there and the very limited access away from Oak Creek as you're going into the canyon," Cerveny said.

Cerveny said Yuma has had storms that brought 5-6 inches of rainfall in a single event. Its typical yearly rainfall is about 3 inches.

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About the Author


Position: Senior News Reporter. Started with KTAR July 4, 1999.

Favorite spots in Arizona: Pinetop-Lakeside, Alpine, Greer.

Have covered some of the biggest stories in Arizona including nine of the top 10 largest wildfires in state history. The Wallow Fire in 2011 became the largest fire in state history. Rodeo-Chediski Fire in June 2002, which is the second largest fire in Arizona. Covered the Yarnell Hill Tragedy in June 2013 that left 19 Granite Mountain Hotshots dead.

Favorite movies: True Grit, both 1969 John Wayne classic and the remake with Jeff Bridges and Lonesome Dove.

Sports Teams: Washington State University Cougars, Texas Longhorns, The University of Montana Grizzlies.

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