Tonto Creek Residents Brace For New Storm

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Barricades across Tonto Creek in Tonto Basin are still up and the threat of yet another storm Wednesday could keep them there indefinitely.

A spokesperson with the Tonto Basin Fire District said that the storms of Feb. 4 and Feb. 15, which dumped nearly an inch of rain in Rim Country, have forced officials to keep barricades across Tonto Creek in place, resulting in logistical problems for residents and volunteers.

"Right now, about a dozen volunteers with Gila County are staffing an assistance center at Fire Station Number Two on the east side of the creek to offer assistance to residents," said the spokesperson.

People living on the east side of Tonto Creek in Tonto Basin are well-accustomed to dealing with being cut off from the rest of civilization, but prolonged closure of crossings can pose special problems for them.

Food and medicines are not always available when floods close crossings.

The Gila County Department of Emergency Operations assistance center on Elm Street on the east side of Tonto Creek will keep residents supplied with necessities such as food, water and prescription medicines until the creek subsides.

"The assistance center is open from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays," said Jeanine Cheek with the Tonto Basin Fire District.

"Residents can go in and give a list of what they need and volunteers will advise them how to get it."

"They can arrange to have their mail delivered, order groceries, and receive dry goods if they need them," Cheek added.

The nearly 550 residents on the east side of Tonto Creek are preparing for the possibility that more rain and run off could completely close crossings.

"We always recommend that residents on the east side of Tonto Creek have a five to seven day supply of necessities on hand for these events," said Cheek.

The combination of runoff from rain and snow Friday, Feb. 15 along with a 40 percent chance of rain during the day tomorrow and a 60 percent chance of snow tomorrow night could make the creek completely impassable, even for the two-and-a-half ton military troop carrier used to shuttle people across the swollen creek during floods.

"The creek didn't rise as much as we expected from Friday's storm, but it's running at over 1,500 gallons per minute right now and if we get more rain this week, it could pose additional problems," Cheek said.

The military transport carrier is also used to take children from the east side of Tonto Creek to school on the west side, but depending on how much the creek floods, that is not always possible.

Cheek said that as of Tuesday morning, the truck was still shuttling school children across the creek, but if tomorrow's predicted storm dumps a lot of rain in Tonto Basin, or at higher elevations, residents on the east side of the creek could be cut off completely.

For emergency information and voicemail messaging with the Gila County Department of Emergency Operations, call: (928) 402-8888 or 1-800-304-4452 ext. 8888.

The National Weather Service predicts a high today (Tuesday) of 59 degrees, with a low of 36 and a 10 percent chance of rain tonight.

There is a 30 percent chance of rain and snow Thursday with a chance of showers Friday as well, according to the National Weather Service Web site. For current weather information, visit the National Weather Service Web site at www.nws.noaa.gov.

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