Flash Floods in Arizona

After driving through a really really big storm on the highway west of Flagstaff, I drove north along the desert up near the Arizona/Nevada border. Pulled down a road, with a big sign at the start of the road, and started looking for a pullout I could camp in. Crossed a couple of dry creeks, but didn't camp in them. Pitched the tent on a bit of flat sand by the side of the road. Looked nice and flat. Didn't look like a creek bed at all.

So the storm came back, of course. It blew and blew and blew, and rained and rained and rained. I stayed awake sort of holding the tent up from the inside. I'd parked the car in front of the tent, and even tied the tent to it, as it had been pretty windy when I set up as well.

The storm eventually abated somewhat, and I rolled over to go back to sleep, when I noticed a strange waterbed like feel to the floor of the tent. Horror and shock came next as I realised I was in the middle of a flash flood. A quick unzip of the tent revealed about 3 inches of water rushing past the door of the tent, and my slippers floating away. First thought is to save my saeng/duna/down comforter (depending on where in the world you are) so I pick up my bedding and rush out of the tent to stuff it into the car.

It's still pouring rain of course, it had merely eased off, not stopped by any means, so I get quite wet in the process, but turn my attention back to my tent, now sagging badly under the weight of water rushing under the car and threatening to destroy the tent. With some effort and in 4-5" of water, I manage to untie the tent from the car, get the poles out, and shove it into the car as a wet dirty muddy mess.

I break out in laughter now, as I'm going to be ok, I survived my brush with the desert's wet surprise, and stand on the "bank" for a little while watching the water rush past. It's about 30 feet across and about 5-6" deep, and the "bank" I'm on is barely noticeable, merely a few inches above everything else. The adrenaline wears off and I go to get a fleece out of the car and I realise that I'm not out of trouble yet, not by any means. The water hasn't started going down at all, and is still going up, and threatens to start going in the bottoms of the car doors. That would be bad.

I hadn't wanted to try and move the car earlier as I was afraid it would just start bogging down in the sand, but it was now do or die time. The subaru came through with flying colours and jumped right out of the water and back up onto the bank for me, much to my relief. I spent the last few hours of the night sitting in the front of the car, watching the waters, playing computer games and generally being a wet little rat. But I got away.

After a couple of hours it was all gone again, leaving more fresh, flat sand for the next unsuspecting camper. I managed to find my groundsheet, hammer, and one slipper the next morning, all stuck in the mud, but it was going to be time for new slippers for me. The dry creek beds I'd crossed the night before were now deeper and steeper sided, and full of soft sand, but the subaru got through them too. A little bit of apprehension as I smelt burning as I got out near the main road again, but a rummage around discovered I'd collecting quite a bit of wet vegetation in the engine bay, (and sand and grit and all sorts of good stuff) that was now starting to smoke as it dryed out.

And then off to Hoover Dam, where they pulled me over to search my poor wet, dirty car to make sure I wasn't going to drive a bomb over the bridge. Good one fellas.

Not a good campsite (that's water)

Why it wasn't a good campsite

Hoover Dam Complex

Hoover Dam intakes

Intakes and low water marks

Forest of wires