The Black ‘Sludge River’ Arizona Explained

Have you been paying attention to the news? It’s difficult not to, but at the same time, we sometimes just want to look the other way. We have seen our fair share of problems this year, and it seems as if it just got worse, thanks to a video out of Arizona.

The video was shared by officials in Arizona and it shows a dark River that is streaming down a trail and over a small road. It also had the ominous caption: “Who had this on their 2020 hellscape bingo card?”

Pima County officials posted this to social media after it was taken on July 15. The video was of a drainage channel in the north of the county. Interestingly, it happened after a “minor storm.” As it turns out, the dark mass moving through the hills was a flash flood of debris and mud that occurred after wildfires. It might look interesting, but the video is actually being used to show how quickly a flash flood can appear and move.

“This video was taken Wednesday, July 15, 2020, in the Cañada del Oro Wash on the northern County line following a minor storm,” officials wrote on Facebook. “Even a light rain can produce devastating flash floods and mudflows, often with little warning.”

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The risk of flash floods was increased after wildfires because they cause the ground to become dry and unstable. Even light rain can trigger a flood in mudflow, which moves quickly and picks up debris along the way. The damage can be significant and the flow goes along the path of least resistance. Until vegetation is able to grow back, runoff may likely be a continuing problem.

This particular flash flood occurred due to runoff from the Bighorn fire in the West End of the Santa Catalina mountains north of Tucson, Arizona. It was named after the Bighorn sheep that are seen in the area and the blaze has moved southeast since that time. A lightning strike is thought to be to blame for beginning the fire that has burned almost 120,000 acres.

As a result of these after-fire floods, land can erode and it can destroy anything that is downhill from it. Even taking a video is dangerous, because it can be unpredictable.

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