Monsoon Storms Stop Traffic And Flood Roads

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Nearly 1.5 inches of rain fell in Payson Tuesday and an additional 1.78 inches was recorded by the Payson Ranger Station Wednesday as monsoon storms fueled by extra moisture from Tropical Storm Ignacio engulfed Arizona.

According to Mike Staudenmaier, the science and operations officer with the National Weather Service in Flagstaff, Tuesday's storms dumped ample precipitation throughout the state.

"It's the normal monsoon with moisture from the tropical storm (working) into the area," Staudenmaier said. "It's more moisture than we've had so far this monsoon season. Payson got 1.48 inches."

Staudenmaier said severe weather was not an issue, but flash flooding was.

"August and September tend to be our major flood situations," Staudenmaier said, "and most of the time the roots are some kind of tropical moisture that moves up into the area."

The biggest flooding in northern Arizona occurred in Williams, according to Staudenmaier.

"Williams got three inches of rain in two hours," he said.

For more weather information such as rainfall totals, go online to www.wrh.noaa.gov/flagstaff.

Lightning a nuisance, but no fires

Around town, lightning strikes caused temporary power outages and interrupted phone service, but, miraculously, did not start a single forest fire in Rim country, according to Payson Ranger District Fire Prevention officer Gary Roberts.

"The last fires we had were Monday," Roberts said. "This rain doesn't pull us out of the drought, but it really curtails the fire danger -- especially for Labor Day weekend."

The highways 260 and 87 traffic light was out for more than four hours and police officers rotated shifts, directing traffic in the pouring rain.

"We got a nice call from a lady who said how much she appreciated the officers' hard work," Police Chief Gordon Gartner said.

Flooded wash stops DUI driver

Street flooding prompted some temporary closures and slowed traffic to a crawl.

One car with two occupants got stuck in a wash near Doll Baby Ranch. The driver, Edward Palmer, 73, was arrested for DUI.

"The gentleman, who was eventually arrested for DUI, had crossed the wash when it was just starting to rise," Police Lt. Don Engler said.

"He tried to turn around and go eastbound again on Doll Baby Road and the water had risen. As he approached the deeper part of the wash, the front of the car started to drift downstream."

At the time, a group of teenagers participating in an activity sponsored by Outreach Services were also at the wash and chose not to drive their van across.

"We didn't want to risk it," Outreach staff member Mike Murphy said.

The group saw Palmer coming and warned him not to cross, but he ignored them.

"When we got to them, the car was floating," Murphy said. "We pushed the car to an embankment."

"There were a couple of young men who helped him secure the vehicle, so it didn't go down the wash," Engler said. "They physically held the vehicle and were able to get it turned around and out of the wash before it quit on him."

As police arrived, witnesses saw Palmer crawl through the car window and leave the scene on foot. His passenger stayed and spoke to police.

Police later detained Palmer and he was arrested.

Officers decided to leave the car, hoping it would discourage drivers from attempting to cross.

Street crews clean up, chip seal halted

Town Engineer LaRon Garrett and the street department have had their hands full because of the storms.

"We have a lot of messed up streets with a lot of debris on them," Garrett said. "A lot of ditches and culverts are plugged that we are having to clean. Most of it is clean-up. It will probably take us two weeks to get everything cleaned up and that's assuming we don't get more bad storms."

Garrett said that the storms also have brought the chip seal program to a screeching halt.

"We are right in the middle of our pavement maintenance project -- the slurry seal and chip seal" Garrett said. "It basically shut down the chip seal part of it. The slurry sealers are still able to work, but they are way behind schedule because of the weather."

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