Tucson Lightning

Lightning over Tucson Arizona during the Summer Monsoon season.

The rains have finally arrived! This is an exciting time for the desert and for our residents, as we now get to enjoy a reprieve from the hot summer days and witness the revitalization of our beautiful landscape. With the excitement of darkened clouds, rumbling thunder and brilliant light shows, I would like to also remind the community of the importance of storm safety. Just a few minutes of rain can result in damaging flash floods, and with the combined efforts of town staff and resident actions, we can work to have a safe monsoon season. 

When in doubt, wait it out! If you are driving and see a dust or rainstorm ahead, pull over. Avoid crossing flooded washes. Even if it doesn’t look deep, a few inches of running water poses a serious risk. If you are driving in the rain, reduce your speed and avoid sudden braking. If you cannot see the street, don’t drive through it. To increase visibility, check your windshield wipers before driving, and replace them if necessary. Always expect the unexpected, and pack extra supplies, drinking water, and an emergency kit wherever you go.

The safety of our residents is a top priority for town staff, as demonstrated by the emergency response provided during last year’s monsoon season. Flooding on July 8, 2018 resulted in numerous swift-water rescues and road closures, and multiple agencies responded to the train derailment along Interstate 10. Immediate and effective public safety response requires heavy coordination between our departments and community partners before, during and after a storm. 

That day, the town activated the Emergency Operation Center to serve as a central command and control facility for public works, police, risk and safety, communications, town management and Northwest Fire District. Through strategic deployment of our resources, we were able to respond quickly and effectively, and reduce safety risks throughout the community. 

Marana Police and Public Work’s departments collaborated to monitor the community, barricaded dangerous roadways, and removed debris. Northwest Fire District responded to structural damages, fallen trees or power lines, failing electrical systems, and swift-water rescues to ensure the safety of everyone on site. All status updates and road conditions were reported back to the EOC to be disseminated to the public. It is important that the community can rely on us as a source for up-to-date and accurate information, especially during an emergency. To make sure you’re prepared for the latest news, remember to follow the Town of Marana on Twitter and Facebook. 

The town looks to past experiences to improve safety protocols and procedures for the new rain season. Last year’s flooding required extensive clean-up of debris, damaged streets and fallen trees. This year, public works staff organized all Monsoon-related equipment, reviewed safety protocol, and updated the public works repair plan to streamline repairs. Staff is also prepared to distribute sandbags in the event of an impending flood emergency, and details will be provided to the public ahead of time to ensure adequate preparation by the community. 

The completion of the new Ina Road Bridge over the Santa Cruz River now provides a safe alternate route, as the new structure no longer needs to be shut down at the crossing during flood events. The Pima County Regional Flood Control District also maintains the Santa Cruz River by cleaning the channels, removing the sediment build up and undesirable vegetation and repairing erosion around the bridges and bank protection. This helps increase the channels flood carrying capacity and minimize flooding potential.

The monsoon time is an exciting one for desert dwellers, but it is also an excellent time to brush up on safety protocols so we can all continue to enjoy living in beautiful southern Arizona. By working together, we can continue to make Marana a great place to live in any season. 

Jamsheed Mehta is the Town of Marana Manager.

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