The mangled remains of Hedges truck was pulled from the creek where it had rolled down by McSpaddens ranch.  Photo by Ellie Petty
Home » Living » Historic floodwaters from Telegraph burn scar devastate the Hale homestead

Historic floodwaters from Telegraph burn scar devastate the Hale homestead

Jane and Tom Hale have lived on their property in the Pinals for over 32 years, in a home built by the McKusicks – whose craftsmanship in home building, dating back to the Great Depression, was legendary in the area. 

It’s a good thing. A lesser house might not have survived.

The floodwaters, which hit the Hales’ house on July 29, were part of the third major flooding event since the monsoons brought the first rain to the area on July 3. A rainy season like this would have been welcomed with open arms after 14 months of record drought, had it not come on the heels of the massive Telegraph Fire. The burn scar left a hard crust where once there was ground cover, and with every rain, the runoff was massive and mixed with burned debris and mud. 

“The Pinal mountains, which typically see 2 inches of rain per year, have had over 14 inches just in July and August.”

The Hales had prepared for the flooding by deepening the creekbed channel, creating higher berms, and lining the bend with 4,000-pound jersey barriers – the kind used in road construction. 

A screenshot of the video taken by Jane Hale on the day of the flood shows its massive size. Posted on You Tube, it received thousands of views. 

The first several flood events of the monsoon season, including the one of which overtopped the banks and flooded Six Shooter Canyon, were contained at the Hale ranch with the barriers they had erected after the fire. 

But the microburst that hung over the mountains to the west of them and dropped over 2 inches of rain in less than an hour was too much for any man-made barriers.  

The mix of floodwaters and burn debris quickly overtopped the banks of the creek bed, destroyed the new earthen berm, and blew through the jersey barriers, lifting them up effortlessly and rolling them downriver. It took out the couple’s large gazebo on the back patio and their white picket fence before bursting through the windows and doors of the porch and through the house.

Debris from the burn scar and the flooding shows the enormity of the floodwaters. Photo by Ellie Petty.

Jane had set the table for lunch that day and had steaks on the counter. Friends Dawn and John Hedges had come to help them move some hay. Even though the sky was clear at the ranch, Jane moved her car and truck to higher ground when she saw it raining to the west. When she went back to get the couple’s 4×4 she saw the wall of water and stopped.

“I was probably thirty seconds from being in that water,” she says. “John (Hedges) didn’t get there fast enough to move his truck, and it rolled up like a tin can behind McSpadden’s.”

Water, mixed with mud and debris – including massive tree trunks the size of a man’s torso – crashed through the back of her home and flooded every room in the house for nearly an hour, while Jane stood on her front porch, barely above the raging waters, and filmed it all. 

Jane and Tom Hale set up a camp trailer on their property while clean-up is underway. “I could do a complete remodel,” Jane says, “but this ain’t over. Far from it,” says Jane.

Inside, her husband, Tommie, along with Dawn and John Hedges, worked to keep the couple’s small dogs safely on top of the now-floating furniture in the living room.

The couple would discover one of the older small dogs had drowned in the back room where the flood first burst through the windows and doors of the home. 

“She was old and hard of hearing, and probably didn’t even know it was coming,” says Jane.

Three of her large dogs were in the garage when it collapsed. Two of the dogs made it out of the floodwaters. One has still not been found. 

Jane’s video, which was picked up by news stations in the Valley, shows a wide expanse of fast-running water and debris spanning nearly 100 feet. She estimates it was 20 feet deep in places. Later photos show debris piled at least that high in places. 

Neighbor, Udon McSpadden (center) was one of nearly 50 people who turned out to help muck out the mud and debris from the house. Photo by Ellie Petty 

The following day, nearly 50 people showed up to help, including Jane’s daughter Ellie and her long-time neighbor Udon McSpadden, whose house sits above Jane’s. He lost two hunting dogs in the flood, but his house was safe. Volunteers hauled debris-soaked furniture and belongings to the dump, shoveled out mud from all corners of the house, retrieved what was left of John Hedges truck, located the jersey barriers they could find and brought them back to the ranch, checked on the 40 head of Jane’s cattle that had survived, and attended to the couple’s need for food, water, and shelter, providing temporary housing and feeding them.

Friends Alan and Trena, who are retired from custom home building, walked through the house and told Jane and Tom what they needed to do to save the house: rip off drywall to the waterline, tear up the flooring to the concrete foundation, scrub down the framework, take apart the electrical, and clean every bit of mud and silt out of the places it had settled. 

Jane is unsure whether, even if she were able to save the house, she should try. It depends on the creek. All the experts warn of similar kinds of flood events from the burn scar for another three to five years. 

“I could do a complete remodel,” Jane says, “but this ain’t over. Far from it.” She hopes to consult with an engineer to see if something can be done that would ensure the home’s safety, but it’s hard to look at photos of the monster wall of water and debris that hit the house on the 29th and imagine anything man-made could bend the will of Mother Nature and turn the flood away from the house.

In the meantime, the cleaning continues. The mud is everywhere; in electrical outlets, down the toilet, underneath the floors. Jane points to a bathtub that floated off its foundation. The Hales have been using their savings to make repairs. But without a Federal Disaster Emergency designation for the flooding, they won’t be able to get their money back. Nor can they replace the house if they have to tear it down without the designation. There is also the issue of the garage and the miles of fencing that was taken out by the flood. It’s $35 per food of fencing says Tom and he has lost thousands of dollars in fencing alone from the flood. That too will have to come out of the couple’s savings for now. 

Her daughter Ellie would like to see the house sit for a year with the walls exposed to see if mold shows up. There is a travel trailer set up on site which the couple uses as a temporary home.

They still have dogs and cattle on the property which depend on them. Jane is hoping the forest service will allow their cattle back on the land in a year. If they don’t she doesn’t know what they will do with their herd. 

 

Carl Melford, head of Emergency Management for Gila County, explained in an email that a state emergency declaration was issued on July 29, which made $200,000 available for local governments to recuperate response costs in an emergency. In the event of flooding, this would be applicable to reimburse debris removal costs at a 75% cost match – essentially a reimbursement rate. This means 75 cents of every dollar spent would be eligible for reimbursement, not to exceed $200,000.  However, Gila County has been utilizing the $100 million made available through House Bill 2001, issued by Gov. Ducey. This funding source is statewide, so counties across the state will be drawing on it. It also has no cost match – it’s a 100% reimbursement. Gila County (supporting the City of Globe and Town of Miami) has already used $3.8 million. But this funding is available only to local governments – not individuals like Jane and Tom Hale. 

TIMELINE

1

July 29th   Six Shooter Canyon overflows it’s banks and floods the road.  Miami Floods sending water and debris down hwy 60 and flooding businesses.  (This is the same flooding which hit the Hales home….. ) 

More than 2” of rain in less than an hour

2Aug 11      Microburst north of Globe sends flood waters 

3 Aug 18  hwy 60 closed in Globe  and between Superior and Globe, Homes in Russel Gulch damaged,  traffic is rerouted around the hospital which is not flooded, but roads are.

Oyo motel is flooded losing all contents.

It is reported that Gov Ducey declares a state of emergency in Gila Bend, population 2000, which frees up $200,000 in state funds for recovery. Miami Town ManagerMiami town manager, Micah Gaudet, sent out a press release Thursday pointing out: “No state official came to Miami to see the devastation of the post-fire flooding.

4Aug 28th:  It is announced that United Fund of Globe-Miami has raised $258,018.97. Community businesses who helped contributed were Pinal Mountain Lions Foundation, BHP Billiton, Freeport-McMoRan, Capstone Pinto Valley Mine, and Southwest Gas Corporation, along with money from a GoFundMe created to help with damage caused by the Telegraph Fire

Our two stories this month on flooding take place on opposite ends of the Pinals, but both were drastically impacted by first the fire in June and now the flooding which began in July and continued to wreak havoc throughout the month of August. The Ptak’s ranch in El Capitan is located off HWY 77 on your way to Tucson. The Hale homestead is located off Hwy 60 mid-way between Miami and Superior. 

 

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