Numerous large arroyos drain into the Animas, San Juan, and La Plata Rivers creating areas called Alluvial Fans. Alluvial Fans are the sedimentary deposit located at a topographic break, such as the base of a mountain front, escarpment, or valley side, that is composed of streamflow and/or debris flow sediments and has the shape of a fan, either fully or partially extended. Flooding in these areas is characterized by flow path uncertainty so great that this uncertainty cannot be set aside in realistic assessments of flood risk or in the reliable mitigation of the hazard. An active alluvial fan flooding hazard is indicated by three related criteria: (1) flow path uncertainty below the hydrographic apex; (2) abrupt deposition and ensuing erosion of sediment as a stream or debris flow loses its ability to carry material eroded from a steeper, upstream source area; and (3) an environment where the combination of sediment availability, slope, and topography creates an ultrahazardous condition for which elevation on fill will not reliably mitigate the risk.
Even more abundant are the smaller drainages that feed the larger arroyo systems and cause areas of Shallow Flooding. This type of flooding is typically unconfined flows over broad, relatively low relief areas, such as alluvial plains, intermittent flows in arid regions that have not developed a system of well-defined channels; overbank flows that remain unconfined, such as on delta formations; overland flow in urban areas; and flows collecting in depressions to form ponding areas. For National Flood Insurance Program purposes, shallow flooding conditions are defined as flooding that is limited to 3.0 feet or less in depth where no defined channel exists.
Our arid environment and rural development lends itself to "Sheet Runoff", the broad, relatively unconfined downslope movement of water across sloping terrain that results from many sources, including intense rainfall and/or snowmelt, overflow from a channel that crosses a drainage divide, and overflow from a perched channel onto deltas or plains of lower elevation. Sheet runoff is typical in areas of low topographic relief and poorly established drainage systems.
TURN AROUND DON'T DROWN
Most flood-related deaths and injuries could be avoided if people who come upon areas covered with water followed this simple advice: Turn Around Don't Drown™.
The reason that so many people drown during flooding is because few of them realize the incredible power of water. A mere six inches of fast-moving flood water can knock over an adult. It takes only two feet of rushing water to carry away most vehicles. This includes pickups and SUVs.
If you come to an area that is covered with water, you will not know the depth of the water or the condition of the ground under the water. This is especially true at night, when your vision is more limited.
Play it smart, play it safe. Whether driving or walking, any time you come to a flooded road, TURN AROUND, DON'T DROWN!
SAN JUAN COUNTY OFFICE OF EMERGENCY MANAGEMENT 209 S OLIVER, AZTEC NM 87410 - 505-334-1180 office - 505-334-0915 fax