On Tuesday, July 10, a monsoon rolled over Marana, pouring rain, shooting lightning and derailing a train. Unsurprisingly, the Town of Marana government was left with quite a mess to clean up.
“On July 8 we had a storm, and it saturated the soil so that when the July 10 monsoon came, the water couldn’t penetrate the ground,” said Mo El-Ali, Marana’s Public Works Director. “That is what caused all the flooding. The July 8 storm was not even that bad itself, but it set everything up. All the major washes got affected.”
When a storm of sufficient intensity unleashes from above, Marana’s “Emergency Operations Center” kicks into effect.
According to the Marana Town Talk Podcast, the EOC brings together key members from around the town to solve emergency-related issues during the time of a major event.
“Police work with the dispatch and call me to tell me we’re activating the Emergency Operations Center,” El-Ali said. “I then coordinate with the police. We figure out where the flooding is happening, and what areas need the most help.”
Monsoon season is rife with emergency-size storms. The July 10 monsoon resulted in eight water rescues and hundreds of feet of destroyed and obstructed roads.
Different response teams were assigned to different districts around Marana. Immediate responses involve things like road closures, road cleanup, constructing barricades, removing fallen trees and sandbagging problem areas.
“We had to replace about 800 feet of asphalt and pavement,” El-Ali said. “Landscaping was impacted, and crews ended up having to sweep about 40 miles of road.”
In the case of the July 10 monsoon and subsequent flooding, emergency response crews worked until almost midnight, receiving support from other town departments such as the water department, parks and recreation department and the wastewater department. Often, so many resources are needed in town cleanup that all other landscaping and street construction work gets put on hold until the roads are completely cleared and open.
“The July 10 storm set us back about three or four weeks,” El-Ali said. “We actually expected that before it happened, based on the size of the storm.”
After the initial storm is over, full cleanup can be assessed and completed. Depending on the intensity of the storm and damage, the town can use available town workers, or contract out the work if need be. Public Works maintains a budget for street maintenance, which also includes the funds for storm cleanup. However, these funds can often run dry. At that point, storm cleanup can tap into the town’s contingency fund.
This week, Marana town workers expect to finish cleaning debris and damage from the early July monsoons.
“After a storm, we talk about what went well and what can be done better next time,” El-Ali said. “So there is constant improvement. The whole idea is to keep Marana residents safe.”
Safety extends beyond cleanup. Marana also prepares for monsoon season as best they can, despite the fact storms and weather are inherently uncertain. Preparations include distributing sandbags to Marana residents, a “Pavement Preservation Program,” and tweaking the EOC after every use.
“It’s all in the preparation,” El-Ali said. “So that when a storm hits, we can be ready.”