Storm Update: Landslide Closes Highway 87


Latest news:

North and southbound Highway 87 is closed as of Friday morning, after mud broke loose at the repaired landslide area, two miles south of Sunflower, said Sgt. Terry Lincoln with DPS.

Asked if there was debris in the roadway, Lincoln said, "yes, a whole mountain."

However, Lincoln could not confirm how much hillside had slid onto the highway and was on her way to check out the damage at 8:30 a.m. Friday.

According to ADOT, the highway is closed at the Bush Highway/Saguaro Lake Road turnoff for northbound traffic and the Highway 188 junction for southbound traffic

Read Friday's Roundup for more information.

• A mandatory evacuation is in place for any residents threatened by flood waters on the east side of Tonto Creek.

• The National Weather Service is predicting 4 to 8 inches of snow in Payson Friday with another 3 to 5 inches Friday night.

• Children and staff at Payson Headstart, 1008 S. Westerly, were evacuated this afternoon after an electrical fan overheated in a bathroom, sending smoke throughout the building.

No one was injured and the Payson Fire Department quickly extinguished the smoldering fan within minutes.

Fire Chief Marty deMasi said the school’s staff did exactly what they should, called for help, closed the bathroom door and evacuated the students to a nearby ambulance storage facility.

• Since this morning, several crossings have been closed due to flooding, according to the Gila County Emergency Management team.

They include Flowing Springs Road, East Verde crossings and all three crossings in Tonto Basin.

• Community Emergency Response Team are filling sandbags at the Gila County Maintenance Yard, located just east of Star Valley. Sandbags are available for pickup free.

• The Red Cross opened a shelter for Tonto Basin evacuees at 2 p.m. in the Tonto Basin School.

A much anticipated winter storm began its first assault on the Rim Country late Wednesday night, dropping 1.2 inches of rain in Payson in just 24-hours and five inches of snow in Pine. Around the state, the storm is dropping heavy snow in Flagstaff and causing flooding in parts of the Valley.

As of Thursday morning, Highway 87 is closed from Winslow to Pine-Strawberry.

Chains or four wheel drive are required for all travel between Heber and Payson on Highway 260.

The storm is expected to continue through Thursday afternoon with a second storm from the central California coast hitting this evening, according to the National Weather Service.

This storm is expected to bring with it “very heavy” precipitation and snow along with strong wind gusts that could create blizzard like conditions. The NWS warns this is a recipe for downed trees and power lines.

On Wednesday night, Gila County Sheriff’s Office deputies and posse members began pre-evacuation warning for Tonto Basin and Roosevelt residents living in low lying areas, said Lt. Tim Scott.

“We told them to be prepared because of the amount of water expected in Tonto Creek,” Scott said. “The creek is going to be running quite rapidly.”

As of Thursday morning, the creek was flowing at 4.8 cubic feet a second. The creek is expected to flood early Friday morning, hitting 17.4 cubic feet a second.

Jeannine Check, public information officer with Tonto Basin Fire, reported Tonto Creek is already not crossable and several residents have elected to move to safety on the other side, staying with friends or in trailers.

Of the possibility for flooding, Cheek said, “It is going to happen and hopefully we are ready.”

So far, no major accidents have been reported since Wednesday.

“It has been quite so far,” Scott said. “We are in a hold type pattern. As soon as we know something, we will notify people.”

Matt Bolllinger, division director of the Gila County Emergency Management, said an emergency operations center has been opened in Globe and in Star Valley at the Star Valley Yard.

The Gila County Sheriff’s Office and DPS have also opened mobile incident command units in the Star Valley Yard.

“In the Payson area, we will be trying out a joint command structure as the emergency develops,” Bollinger said. “We are in hopes that this team effort will speed our response and recovery to help the residents through this time.”

In Tonto Basin, an emergency assistance center will be opened on the east side of Tonto Creek on Saturday from 11 a.m. to 1 pm., to deliver mail, groceries, medications and parking passes to residents on the west side. The center will be at the Tonto Basin Fire Annex on Elm Street.

DPS and ADOT have placed restriction on the following highways:

• State Route 89A is closed from Flagstaff to Sedona in both directions

• Northbound I-17 is closed at milepost 298 (Camp Verde)

• Northbound and Southbound I-17 is closed at milepost 337 (Pulliam Field/Flagstaff Airport)

• Chains are required or four wheel drives on U.S. 60 in the Salt River Canyon

• U.S. 180 is closed from milepost 239 to 250 (highway leading to the Grand Canyon from Flagstaff)

• Chains are required between Heber and Payson on Highway 260

• State Route 87 is closed from Winslow south to Pine-Strawberry

Power lines are lying across both northbound and southbound I-17 at Kachina Village (south of Flagstaff)


Tim Barrett 7 years ago

I remember the great floods in the early 70's. The totally ravaged the East Verde and ruined trout fishing there. It really used to be blue ribbon believe it or not. I remember the river at 40 yards wide and 20+ feet deep at East Verde Park. Thank goodness Mr. and Mrs King had plenty of elk in the freezer!


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