Monsoon season and burn scars: Be prepared, expect the unexpected

By Luis Carlos Lopez / ADOT Communications

US 89 Tunnel FireThe devastation wildfires leave in their wake, the barren land and ashes, are commonly known as burn scars. 

Earlier this year, the Tunnel Fire burned nearly 20,000 acres about 14 miles northeast of Flagstaff. As the flames scorched through the Coconino National Forest, ADOT was forced to close US Route 89 in both directions for a few days. The closures were not only a nuisance for motorists, they served as a reminder that extreme weather is sudden and unforgiving.   

While the Tunnel Fire has wrapped up, a burn scar has been left in its wake. Areas with burn scars are more prone to flooding and flash flooding. The threat is greater when rain from monsoons arrive. Motorists should be aware this Tunnel Fire burn scar and others are scattered throughout Arizona due to wildfires in recent years. If there is a heavy monsoon rain, the potential for flooding in and around a burn scar poses a real threat. 

Unfortunately, at the time of this writing, another fire has ravaged the same area near US 89 north of Flagstaff, forcing the highway's closure yet again. Because such things are becoming more and more common, it's important all drivers are prepared when they travel during monsoon season and expect the unexpected.

If you happen upon a road closure sign, don’t go around it! It’s there for your safety, and the safety of all Arizona motorists. Roads may be closed unexpectedly due to flooding but sometimes you may come across a road with water flowing over it. Just like you wouldn't drive around a road closure sign, don't drive on a flooded roadway. Water can be very powerful and it's hard to tell how deep water the water is on a road. Please turn around, don't drown.

If you need to turn around, check out AZ511.gov for an alternate route to your destination. 

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