Chapter 3: Hydrological Processes in Riparian Areas

Floods and Droughts

 

Table 3.1. Chronology of major and other memorable floods and droughts in Arizona, 1862-1988.

Flood or Drought

Date

Area Affected

Recurrence Interval (years)

Remarks

Flood

Jan. 19-23, 1862

Gila and Colorado Rivers

Unknown

Severe at Yuma. Wet year in Verde and Bright Angel basins, but not in upper Salt.

Flood

Feb. 18- 26, 1891

Central Highlands

25 to 100

Phoenix and Yuma flooded. In Clifton, deaths, 18; damage, $1 million.

Flood

Nov. 27- 30, 1905

San Francisco to Verde Rivers

5 to 10

Several moderate to severe floods, particularly at Phoenix and along the lower Gila River.

Flood

Jan. 19- 22, 1916

Central Highlands

10 to 0

Intense rain on melting snow produced large flows in central Arizona. Deaths, 4; damage, $300,000.

Flood

Aug. 21, 1921

Phoenix (Cave Creek)

Unknown

Six inches of rain in two days flooded 4,000 acres and the State capitol building. Damage, $240,000.

Flood

Sept. 27- 29, 1926

San Pedro River and Mexico

>100

Tropical storm. Peak flow 2 - 3 times larger than any other in 70 years. Damage, $450,000.

Drought

1932- 36

Statewide

10 to 20

Effects differed among basins.

Flood

Mar. 14- 15, 1941

Central Arizona

5 to 40

One of several storms that caused general runoff and filled reservoirs.

Drought

1942- 64

Statewide

>100

Second most severe in 350 years, on the basis of tree-growth records.

Flood

Sept. 26- 28, 1962

Brawley and Santa Rosa Washes

>100

Deaths, 1; damage, $3 million, mostly to agriculture near Casa Grande.

Flood

Dec. 22, 1965 to Jan. 2, 1966

Verde, Salt, and Gila Rivers and Rillito Creek

10 to 50

First large flow through Phoenix since reservoirs were built on Verde River (1939). Damage, $10 million.

Flood

Dec. 5- 7, 1966

Grand Canyon to southwestern Utah

>100

Mudflows and channel erosion damaged Indian ruins that had been undisturbed for 800 years.

Flood

Sept. 5- 7, 1970

Tonto Creek to Hassayampa River

40 to 100

Labor Day weekend floods in recreation areas. Reservoirs stored most runoff. Deaths, 23; damage, $8 million.

Flood

Oct. 17- 21, 1972

Upper Gila River

10 to 40

Tropical storm. Deaths, 8; damage, $10 million.

Drought

1973- 77

Statewide

15 to 35

Most severe in eastern Arizona.

Flood

July 17, 1974

Safford (Holyoke Wash)

>100

Thunderstorm produced flow of 1,740 cubic feet per second from 0.85 square mile.

Flood

Oct. 1977 to Feb. 1980

Central and southeastern Arizona

5 to 100

Seven regional floods. Phoenix declared a disaster area three times. Deaths, 18; damage, $310 million.

Flood

July 26, 1981

Tucson (Tanque Verde Falls)

less than 2

Flash flood at recreation area on Sunday; deaths, 8. Two larger peak discharges in the same week were not noticed.

Flood

June 20 to Aug. 17, 1983

Colorado River

20 to 40

Upper basin rain and snowmelt. First reservoir spill since Hoover Dam was built (1935). Damage, $80 million.

Flood

Oct. 1- 3, 1983

Santa Cruz to San Francisco Rivers

10 to >100

Record floods on 18 streams; two peak discharges doubled 65-year-old records. Deaths, 8; damage, $226 million.