The residential neighborhood of Wildwood Hills woke up to overcast skies Aug. 3, but as the day progressed, the clouds grew darker and weather worsened. This neighborhood on West Route 66 has seen its share of floods, and the community knew what to expect.
Around 4 p.m., following their afternoon nap and meal, community residents Todd and Lynn Vanosdell realized the weather was getting bad enough to be concerning.
“I looked outside and all right, this is more than usual — better open the gates to prepare for a flood,” said Lynn.
After half an hour, the water was flooding down the middle of the street. At its peak, it was reaching garages and causing damage.
Wildwood Hills is a retirement community where the residents are all 55 and older, some in their 80s. The Vanosdells have been living there for around a decade — their home, while small, is colorful and heavily decorated, as seen on their back patio with a variety of festive décor.
Another feature of their home, as with the rest of the community, is a series of flood gates. The gates come in a variety of sizes. They are usually panels under the homes or through their fences that help divert the flow of water to keep it from building up in yards or causing damages under houses.
When it is time to prepare for the worst they have a system for protecting their homes. Garages and furniture are monitored to try to save what they can, and pets are corralled. Everything is done to try and minimize the impact from the flood.
Residents Becky and Bruce Sell, who are both between 65 and 70, had been out for the day on their weekly grocery shopping trip. Because of this, they were unable to raise their flood gates in time, and the water damaged several parts of their home.
“The neighbors above us didn’t have time to get their gates up,” Lynn said. “They’re older and already have trouble getting around, and when they got home the flooding made it even harder for them to get in and out of their house.”
Floods like this have happened several times over the past two decades, and according to the residents, they are increasing in number. According to Helen Hager, manager of the area for the last 20 years, flooding has been recorded in the area once every three years, and the last few years have caused more and more damage.
“We just want to do all we can to protect our little corner of the world. I’ve lived here for several years, and I’ve seen how the floods have gotten worse. I don’t know for sure what the cause is, but I do know we need to do something.” said Hager.
The issue of the flooding lies in the solutions construction companies are seeking to prevent flooding in the newer constructed areas. The creation and use of culverts, which is a cement wall set up to divert flood waters from major inhabited areas, is what may be causing some of the problems with flooding.
New developments like this can be found all over Flagstaff, and the city is working to make sure they are given the appropriate measures to keep disasters from happening.
Sept. 26 a meeting was held for the neighbors to discuss their next move in order to fix the issue of flooding.
“All we know is that they’ve had a mess up there since it began,” said Todd Vanosdell.
He was discussing the culverts that were created to redirect the flooding waters from Presidio in the Pines, a new coming Home Owners Association neighborhood being built above Wildwood Hills.
With Presidio in the Pines, construction began several years ago and work was done to keep the area from flooding.
“I want one thing,” Todd said. “I want a little bit of help, if we could just defer some of this water somewhere else. They have funneled it in here with that 3-foot culvert from Woody Mountain road and it dumps out just right here on the hill.”
According to city standards, flooding diversions cannot send water into other neighborhoods. This standard is the basis for the plea to the city in order to help fix the neighborhood. The damage from the flood this year was estimated to be nearly $60,000 worth of repairs, not including the damage done to the wooded area surrounding the neighborhood.
Representatives from Presidio met with the people from Wildwood Sept. 26 to discuss the flooding plans and what had been done. The water had also gone through a section of the Presidio neighborhood, leaving those residents also looking for answers.
“The water came around [the culvert] and went between two houses — two new homes there in Presidio, so they’ve obviously done something wrong,” Todd said.
When interviewed about this at the time of the flood, the city officials who were representing the investigation told the Arizona Daily Sun the culvert and flood ponds were up to city standards. Those who had worked in Wildwood are trying to prove that even if this is up to city standards, it is not good enough.
With the help of several people in the neighborhood, the Vanosdell’s have created a map that shows the worst areas affected by the flood. Aside from that, they have mapped out where the water comes from, with pictures and videos showing the water tearing through the streets and backyards of their homes.
At a Flagstaff City Council meeting Oct. 4, Councilmember Coral Evans requested a future discussion about the flooding issues at Wildwood Hills and Kit Carson Trailer Park for an upcoming council meeting.
This year will mark year 100 since the last “hundred year flood.” At some point water is expected to wreak havoc through the Rio de Flag; it is expected that several flood plains throughout town will have to prepare for the worst. This includes areas like Wildwood Hills and Kit Carson Mobile Home Park.
With the heavy floods expected in the near future, the people fighting for better flood plans hope that more will be done by the city to ensure the flood gates, culverts and draining pools are ready and capable to handle the water to come.