FLAGSTAFF, Ariz. – The combination of heavy rainfall and damage to vegetation generated by wildfires is creating the perfect storm for flooding and debris flows in parts of the Desert Southwest.
Showers and thunderstorms associated with the annual monsoon can produce several inches of rain during only a few hours.
The rainfall was heavy enough on Friday evening for officials in Flagstaff, Arizona, to issue a temporary shelter-in-place order for areas near the burn scar created by the Museum Fire in 2019.
Firefighters say after a wildfire burns through an area, the soil loses the ability to absorb water and turns into runoff.
The runoff can begin quickly and be life-threatening, especially in poor drainage areas.
An Arizona Game & Fish officer captured the sight of water rushing down the mountainside of San Francisco Peaks outside of Flagstaff on Thursday.
The debris flow happened in the area impacted by the Pipeline Fire that recently burned more than 26,000 acres.
The officer described the sudden sight as "pretty intimidating" as the water swallowed nearly everything in its path as it flowed down the mountainside.
Meteorologists expect sufficient moisture to be around through the weekend for additional chances of heavy rainfall and possible flooding.
The best rain chances over the weekend will stretch from the Mojave Desert in California, through much of Arizona, Utah, New Mexico and southern Colorado.
The off-and-on periods of heavy rainfall are typical from June through September during the height of the monsoon season.
The National Weather Service encourages anyone caught in monsoon flooding to seek shelter in the highest structure possible and stay away from creeks and poor drainage areas.