Storms create risky driving conditions
With nearly 30 low-water crossings spread throughout the community, monsoon season can wreak havoc on Prescott's streets.
Four people in a small van learned about the dangers of flooded washes and creeks first-hand Monday, when their vehicle stalled in about a foot and a half of rushing water on Lincoln Avenue.
Prescott Police Lt. Ken Morley reported that the police and fire departments responded to the situation near the intersection of Lincoln and Grove at about 2:30 p.m. Monday.
"A white van was stuck in the creek, with four passengers," Morley said. After the water rose to below the vehicle's doorsills, the vehicle stopped running in the middle of the creek.
"We pulled the car out with one of the SUVs," Morley said, adding that the passengers were then able to get out of the van, and "Everybody was fine."
Because the city had not yet put up barricades at the crossing, Morley said the driver did not face a ticket for entering the low-water crossing. "We didn't issue any citations," he said.
Even so, Morley and Prescott Street Maintenance Superintendent Bobbie King caution that it is never a good idea to drive through a low-water crossing (areas where water runs over the road during wet conditions) when water is running.
In fact, King said the city typically closes the low-water crossings when the running water reaches a depth of four inches.
"If you can see water running through the crossing, go around it," King said.
Morley added, "If the water's running, and if you have any question about whether you can get through it, find another route."
Especially during times of heavy rains and flash floods, the running water can be dangerous, King said. "You don't know if four or five seconds upstream there is a big wall of water," she said.
Because of the isolated nature of the monsoon rains and the frequent "micro-bursts" of heavy rain, King said low-water crossings might be closed in one part of town, and open in another.
In all, the city has 28 low-water crossings, and King said, "There are times when four or five need to be closed at once."
Lincoln Avenue's low-water crossing is "usually the first and worst," she said. On Monday, the van drove into the crossing before either the police or streets department could get there to close it.
As soon as the rains start, King said crews go out to check the crossings, and close them when necessary.
But, she noted, "If it is a very heavy rain, we don't have enough people (to get to all of the crossings). It can get a little bit hectic."
Along with checking the low-water crossings, streets crews also watch for culverts that might be blocked with debris.
Even without blockage, King said "in some areas, the culverts are not sized to handle these micro-bursts," and flooding will occur.
Arizona's "stupid motorist law" makes it illegal for a driver to go around a barricade and enter a flooded road. Violators can be charged for the cost of rescue.
Morley said it is rare for Prescott drivers to violate the law. "On occasion, it happens," he said. "But people are real good about complying."
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