Phoenix, Arizona, United States (4E) – The flash floods that occurred last Tuesday had cut a swath of devastation throughout the Phoenix, AZ area. Today, a break in the downpour was forecast but more rain is expected to bring more floodwaters by the end of the week.
At least two major freeways were closed because of rising floodwaters, causing many motorists to become stranded in their cars as the swift moving tide engulfed their cars. About 40 miles north of the Phoenix metro area was a trailer park that was evacuated because of the flooding. Similarly, students of a Phoenix high school were relocated because of floodwaters coming into school buildings.
Arizona Governor Jan Brewer, who was observing by television news reports the rescue efforts in the Phoenix area, said, “It looked absolutely devastating. For the last 10, 15 years, we’ve never seen anything the likes of this.”
Amongst the gripping scenes were cactus plants being washed away by cascading floodwaters. There were also scenes that were making rescues of homeowners trapped in rising waters.
The National Weather Service reported that many areas in the Phoenix metro area received more rain during the torrential downpour last Tuesday compared to the total rainfall to date for the summer. Prior to Tuesday, the government agency issued flash flood warnings covering the Phoenix metro area as well as the northern region. At the time, about 8 inches of rain had already fallen by midday along the Interstate 17, which is the main north-south freeway in the state of Arizona.
According to National Weather Service meteorologist Ken Waters, “It’s like a conveyor belt of showers coming through here. We’re seeing new cells popping up in the Phoenix and just outside of Phoenix area.”
She further added, “There’s a lot of concern over flash flooding.”
As a safety precaution, the Arizona Department of Public Safety had closed nearly 15 miles of I-17. Traffic has been redirected into the southbound lanes returning to the city. The Arizona Department of Transportation is now undertaking clearing operations of mud and debris once flooding had receded. The lanes would be opened one at a time.
According to DPS spokesperson Bart Graves, “Earlier we were very concerned that it was moving so fast that it would take over I-17 completely both northbound and southbound. But it didn’t, so now ADOT is going to have to sweep that water out of there, which is going to be a long, arduous project.”
Other reports have streamed in. Peoria Fire Capt James Neely was quoted as saying, “It’s been a busy a very busy morning. A lot of stranded drivers trying to make their way to and from school.”
As for Maricopa County, it had activated its Emergency Operations Center and its head, Peter Weaver said, “We are watching the current weather forecast and do not anticipate things being as bad (as) the rest of today and into tonight because we are now experiencing quick moving small cells, but you never know with weather so we are keeping our EOC activated.”