Residents Stranded By Rim Country Floods

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A strong Pacific storm system that caused flooding in California inched its way east Wednesday drenching the Rim country with torrential downpours.

Substantial flooding caused by the storm had law enforcement officers scrambling to keep up with emergency services.

The Gila County Sheriff's Office responded to the emergency by activating an operations center to deal with flooded crossings in northern Gila County.

According to Gila Country Sheriff's Lt. Adam Shepherd, most of the major crossings on Tonto Creek and the East Verde River were impassible, while homes in low-lying areas, like East Verde Estates, were threatened by rising waters."We have some sandbags so if the water gets close, we can help people keep water out of their homes," Shepherd said.

At the Town of Payson Parks and Recreation office at Green Valley Park, employees fielded telephone calls from concerned citizens reporting the dam was overflowing.

According to town recreation specialist Charlene Hunt, the dam was designed to overflow in case of extensive flooding.

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Rainfall Wednesday raised the lake at Green Valley Park to record levels. The man-made peninsula at the west end of the main lake became an island when rising waters covered the pathway leading to it. The lake is designed to overflow in case of extensive flooding, according to town staff.

From the emergency center, Sheriff John Armer urged motorist not to attempt to cross any flooded areas, especially those where warnings had been posted.

Among those posted were the second and third crossing of the East Verde River on Houston Mesa Road, which were impassable. The river communities of Flowing Springs and East Verde Estates also were stranded by rising water.

In Pine, residents reported that Pine Creek water levels were higher than they'd seen in the past decade.

As rain continued to fall, sheriff's deputies positioned themselves at closure sites where they hung yellow caution tape to keep motorists from attempting to cross flooded areas.

Gila County road workers also set up barricades at the flooded crossings.

Deputies were dispatched to the Bar X ranch south of Payson to help a motorist stranded in a flooded creek bed.

Meanwhile, other deputies were sent to Tonto Creek to search for missing kayakers. The kayakers were rescued late Wednesday afternoon.

The National Weather Service in Flagstaff reported Wednesday afternoon that the city had recorded 3.4 inches of precipitation, pushing their annual rainfall average to almost 23 inches. Payson received 1.5 inches of rainfall; Pine, 2.5 inches; Star Valley, 3.1 inches; and Christopher Creek, 1.75 to 2 inches.

Gov. Janet Napolitano declared a state of emergency in Coconino County and authorized $200,000 for emergency services.

The most rainfall fell in Crown King where the weather service measured 3.7 inches of precipitation.

The U.S. Geological Survey water resources website showed that streamflows on the East Verde River near Childs had risen to 9,080 cubic feet per second Wednesday afternoon from a long-term median flow of 16 cubic feet per second.

Streamflow in West Clear Creek northwest of Payson had risen to 11,000 cubic feet per second from a median of 19.

During the storm, streamflows in almost every waterway in the Verde River Basin increased dramatically.

Near Sedona, flooding, mudslides and falling rock forced the closure of State Route 89A between Sedona and Flagstaff.

The Oak Creek Bridge on SR 179 was also closed due to the flooding. In Flagstaff and between Ash Fork and Seligman, portions of historic Route 66 were closed.

The sheriff's office has asked that all dangerous situations be reported by calling (928) 474-2208 or 911.

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