Be aware of flood potential near wildland fire burn scars as monsoon season approaches

Release Date: Jul 5, 2018  

Silver City, NM, July 5, 2018—For Immediate Release.  As the monsoon season approaches, be aware that the potential for flash flooding exists, particularly in areas impacted by wildland fires such as the Buzzard and Owl Fire burn scars.  Take appropriate measures to keep yourself and your family safe. 

Several factors lead to increased runoff and the risk of flooding including loss of vegetation (ground and canopy cover), loss of forest litter and the presence of water repellent soils. When organic materials such as trees, needles, and leaves burn at high intensities, water repellent compounds form in the underlying soil.  These create a waxy, water repellent layer called hydrophobic soil.  The hydrophobic layer essentially acts as a sheet of plastic and moisture cannot penetrate it, increasing the potential for high runoff, flash flooding, and mud slides.  It can take up to four years for hydrophobic soil to regain its ability to absorb water.

Check the weather forecast before visiting fire impacted areas or nearby locations.  Flash floods can occur very quickly, even if the storm is not directly overhead.  If you encounter flood waters, move to higher ground immediately.  Do not attempt to walk or drive through flowing water.  Turn around, don’t drown, since only one foot of moving water can sweep your vehicle away.  For more safety tips, visit https://www.ready.gov/floods.

For information on the Gila National Forest, check out our website at http://www.fs.usda.gov/gila or join the conversation on Facebook at www.facebook.com/GilaNForest/ or follow us on Twitter @GilaNForest.