A Sad Reminder of Flash Floods in the Desert Southwest

Last week a sad reminder of the danger that exists while hiking in the desert Southwest.

A couple from Walnut Creek, California were killed when a unexpected flash flood roared down the canyon they were hiking in on the Grand Staircase Escalante National Monument. Kathy and Gordon Chapple were killed and others in the party are lucky to be alive after a massive flash flood wen through the canyon at 2:30 Wednesday afternoon.

Fast-moving thunderstorms had passed above the Egypt Trailhead area about 12:30 p.m. Wednesday, dropping up to a half-inch of rain, said Randy Graham, a National Weather Service meteorologist.

The Chapples were in a hiking party of 8 with their children and two guides. The survivors managed to cling to canyon walls until the water subsided enough to safely get out of the canyon.

As a local resident the 1997 flash flood that went through Antelope Canyon just outside of Page, Arizona and killed 11, is never far from memory.

My son, David, has shot several front walls of flash floods moving through the Wahweap Creek area that ends up in Lake Powell. He has produced a dvd that has been used in schools and by the National Weather Service to help educate and inform people of the flash flood danger that exists.

This footage is about four minutes of a couple of different flash floods. This water is moving through a fairly wide area, but keep in mind in a canyon narrows, this could be quickly deadly.Our thoughts and prayers are with the Chapple family and their friends this week.



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Posted in Lake Powell
2 comments on “A Sad Reminder of Flash Floods in the Desert Southwest
  1. Heather- This is such a sad story to hear about the Chapple family.
    This is very interesting to learn about and have never seen anything like this before other when I was kid back in the 70’s when the flash flood on the Salt River here in the valley. Does this happen often? Very intriguing but scary too!

  2. heather says:


    Yes, it happens all the time. The creek in the video is right behind our house (about a half mile) My son got interested in trying to figure out how they work when he was pretty young. A neighborhood girl (about 14 years ago) got washed down one. She ended up safe after her oldest brother jumped in when the search party could not find her. He found her about a mile downstream, wet and cold but fine.

    Every time it rains in the desert, especially with sandstone as the base, this is likely to happen. The sandstone does not absorb water fast enough, and it has to have someplace to go.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kV4aF4AZtY0 is another set of floods from the 06 season. National Geographic just purchased some footage from a flood last October. It was a biggy.

    He has a website that goes into more detail at
    http://www.rankinstudio.com click on flash floods.

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