Rains Cause Flooding

2.5 to nearly 4 inches of rain contributes to heavy run-off

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Nearly four inches of rain Sunday and Monday forced the evacuation of at least 60 people on the west side of Tonto Creek near Jake's Corner in Tonto Basin, and left residents on the east side of the creek stranded until near-capacity flow in the creek subsides.

Rising water in Tonto Creek washed out three power poles, leaving 2,300 customers without power from 10 a.m. Monday until 6:30 p.m. Phone service was also interrupted from 1 p.m. Monday until 7 p.m. in the same area.

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Abby Crozier (left) traveled to Payson from Pinetop to help her mother, Ann, whose house caught fire after a gas leak. Crozier is interviewed by local Red Cross representative Kathleen Kelly.

APS crews strung three miles of temporary power lines to restore service Monday and permanent repairs will be made as soon as possible, said Damon Gross, an APS spokesperson.

The National Weather Service indicates the storm dumped nearly four inches of rain on Tonto Basin, and the Rim Country saw about 2.87 inches since about 8 a.m. Sunday morning, with .66 of an inch at the peak of the storm on Monday morning.

That means Payson has gotten more than a quarter of a year's worth of rain so far this month, according to Bruce Rasch, who monitors Payson weather.

Rainfall since Jan. 1 totals about 5.02 inches, nearly 25 percent of the area's average annual precipitation, according to figures supplied by Rasch.

"If rains continue as they have, there could be some relief this year locally as far as replenishing water sources in the area as well as lessening the hazard of fire in our forests," said the spokesperson with the National Weather Service in Flagstaff.

"But as far as being out of our drought, we would need three or four years of normal rainfall amounts to completely get us out of it."

The weekend's rain sent 56,000 cubic feet per second crashing down Tonto Creek at about 6 a.m. Monday, the equivalent of filling about 28 average-size swimming pools every second, according to Jeanine Cheek with the Tonto Basin Fire District.

As many as 40 residents in the Lazy JR and Sleepy Hollow RV Parks, along with about 20 residents of Roosevelt Gardens East and Rancho Del Escondido, heeded warnings to leave their homes, said Red Cross representatives.

Payson area volunteers are staffing both Red Cross centers in Tonto Basin and Payson.

Debra Williams, PIO for Gila County Emergency Services, said, "none of the rain was really heavy, but the run-off from regions north of us contributed a lot to the flow in Tonto Creek and subsequently some residents have been evacuated," said Williams.

"No one has checked into the Red Cross shelter at Tonto Basin Elementary School," said Williams. "But the shelter is open and we have food and water and other emergency supplies available if they need to come stay here."

Williams said Gila County Emergency Services hasn't received many calls for assistance from those residents stranded on the east side of the creek, but if rains continue, some of them might need help.

"We've been telling people on that side of Tonto Creek to have at least a three- to five-day supply of necessities for these events, and it looks like the message is getting through," said Williams.

Gas leak causes fire

Meanwhile, a gas leak not caused by the rains on East McKamey Street in Payson, forced the evacuation of about 10 families Monday morning.

The Payson Fire Department said crews arrived on the scene of a possible house fire at 12:58 a.m. Monday and found one house on fire.

"The home experienced structural and content damage," said Robert Lockhart, fire marshal with the Payson Fire Department.

A second call at 7:55 to the same neighborhood reported a flash fire in the back of another home that resulted in content damage, said Lockhart.

About 10 homes on East McKamey were evacuated until crews could determine the location of the leaks.

Crews from Semstream Arizona were called to the scene by the fire department and shut off gas until the leaks could be located.

All but two families were allowed to return to their homes later Monday afternoon. No damage estimates were available.

One house was burned "somewhat extensively" and another suffered a flash fire that was minor in nature and caused no real damage to the home, Doug Mann, president of Semstream Arizona, said.

"Inspectors have been in all of the residences in the area and told me there are no leaks inside any of the homes, but we're having some trouble finding the exact location of the leak because of the heavy rains, but crews should have them repaired by tomorrow morning at the latest," said Mann.

"The facts and course of both fires are still under investigation," said Lockhart.

The Red Cross set up a reception and care center at Mount Cross Lutheran Church at 601 E. Highway 260 at noon Monday to offer shelter and services to evacuated families until they can return to their homes.

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