WALL OF WATER AT FORTY-NINER COUNTRY CLUB

Torrent swamps homes near Tanque Verde Wash

Third major flood since 1983 leaves area a muddy mess
2010-08-01T00:00:00Z 2014-07-15T17:53:44Z Torrent swamps homes near Tanque Verde WashTony Davis Arizona Daily Star Arizona Daily Star
August 01, 2010 12:00 am  • 

Darren Leavitt knows something about risk, since he does research for a brokerage firm that caters to institutional investors and hedge funds.

This weekend, he and his neighbors in the far-east-side Forty-Niner Country Club got a taste of another kind of risk that they live with all the time - flooding.

A storm late Friday blew a huge wall of water from the neighboring Tanque Verde Wash through a golf course fairway and into a row of homes, including Leavitt's, along East Barbary Coast Road. The flood left behind muddy carpets and swimming pools, downed fences and walls, water-soaked tile and wood floors, and mud-spattered garages. It was the third major flood to strike the street since 1983. Most of the street lies in the 100-year flood plain.

At least 20 homes along that and neighboring roads were damaged, some severely, forcing owners such as Leavitt and Gilbert Castillo to spend Saturday night and perhaps longer in motels and relatives' homes. Saturday, yards and the course were filled with wood debris and mud. Carpets were rolled up outside homes.

The flood had hollowed out part of the course and filled a previously dry lakebed. A 20-foot saguaro was lying prone in a front yard, its shallow roots undercut by floodwaters.

Sandbags were piled up outside doors as people prepared for more storms.

"At 10:15 last night, my mom called and said on the TV news they were saying that the Tanque Verde Wash has flash-flooding," Leavitt recalled Saturday, as he stood outside his backyard where his swimming pool, recently drained and given a chlorine rinse, was now mud. "I walked to the middle of the golf course behind my home and I heard a roar on the wash, and I called my mom and said, 'There's a roar but we're fine. Five minutes later, I heard a huge crash, I looked out and there was water running through my driveway."

Water at least 4 inches deep flooded homes. Castillo, who lives a couple blocks down the street, recalled that he, his wife and two daughters couldn't figure out how to get out of their homes as the water raced in and they heard the slump block wall behind their home collapse. Their neighbors, Butch and Monica Ashbrook, put a stepladder on top of a table to climb through a skylight to their roof, but the Castillos' stepladder was in their garage so they decided to stay inside.

Every room of the Castillos' home was flooded. Saturday, crews from a restoration firm ran huge blowers to dry out theirs and many other homes. Workers will cut sections of the Castillos' drywall to make sure it's not moldy and that supporting studs aren't rotting. Furniture must be disinfected.

"Welcome to hell. Welcome to chaos," said Castillo, an agent for State Farm Insurance, as he greeted a reporter Saturday. "We have flood insurance. We will be taken care of, but we are going to be out of the house for 60 days."

Castillo and Leavitt have lived in 49ers five years. Neighbors who have lived there longer said this was a different breed from the big floods of 1983 and 1993. Those dropped several inches of rain over several days. This one came from a deluge over the Rincon Mountains that sent floodwaters roaring down Tanque Verde Wash, which was still running bank to bank Saturday afternoon.

The flood also swept two cars into tributaries of the Tanque Verde. Sara Hurguy, a Tucson-area resident visiting friends in this neighborhood, got her car stuck and it swept down the wash after she got out, said John Wisner, a program coordinator for Pima County's Emergency Management Department. Wisner said he saw lawn furniture, garbage and recycle bins and lots of debris float down the Tanque Verde.

Although neighbors said most Barbary Coast homeowners have flood insurance, two couples who had major home damage said they didn't. Mike and Barb Farkas, describing their home of four years as "wiped out," said they canceled their policy two months ago when they refinanced their home after a banker told them they didn't need it because the home no longer was in the flood plain. Dave and Becky Rieck, 31-year residents of Barbary Coast, got tired of paying $1,000 a year for it, Dave said.

"I should have known better," Barb Farkas said. They were trying to sell their house but even before the flood, nobody was buying, they said.

"We're stuck here now," Mike Farkas said.

But the Castillos and most other flooded homeowners said they love the neighborhood and intend to stay here, with its huge, spreading mesquite trees, large yards, the golf course. They say they like the friendly, helpful neighbors and enjoy seeing the birds and other wildlife that pass through regularly.

"We knew there was a flood risk when we moved in," Castillo said.

On StarNet: Go to the Monsoon blog at go.azstarnet.com/monsoon for current weather conditions, monsoon safety tips and other weather-related information.

ROAD CLOSURES

These roads were closed Saturday because of flooding:

•West Overton Road at the Canada del Oro Wash.

•North La Cholla Boulevard at the Canada del Oro Wash.

•West Avra Valley Road east of North Trico Road at the Brawley Wash.

•West Valencia Road south of Arizona 86.

•South Kinney Road south of Arizona 86.

•South Old Spanish Trail at Rincon Creek.

•North Soldier Trail at the Agua Caliente Wash.

•East Speedway at the Monument Wash.

•South Camino de Oeste between West Valencia and West Los Reales roads.

•Old Spanish Trail at the Jeremy Wash.

•South Mission Road between West Valencia and West Drexel roads.

•East River Road east of North Pontatoc Road.

For information about road closures, call the Pima County Sheriff's Department road condition hot line at 547-7510.

Contact reporter Tony Davis at tdavis@azstarnet.com or 806-7746.

Copyright 2014 Arizona Daily Star. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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