Gila County declared a state of emergency Wednesday morning while blue skies held no portend of the torrential downpour to come Thursday.
Earlier in the week, storms had dropped 8 to 12 inches of snow on the Rim and 1 to 2 inches of rain in town.
Crossings of the Tonto Creek had already closed, and county officials warned the creek could ultimately run as high as 50,000 cubic-feet-per-second. By Thursday afternoon, that prediction proved temperate. New forecasts called for water to hit over 72,000 cubic-feet-per-second. The danger zone begins at 1,000 cubic-feet-per-second.
“Honestly, it looks like the Amazon,” said county Director of Emergency Management Matt Bolinger.
Public Works Director Steve Stratton said no extensive damage had yet occurred, but “the state has been set by the previous storms.” He added that the county felt it prudent to declare the emergency in preparation.
Residents living in isolated subdivisions in the northern part of the county including East Verde Estates were directed to gather supplies like food and propane in case of flooding. Thursday morning, the crossing was passable, but cars were warned off by that afternoon. Officials said residents should prepare for two or three homebound days.
County officials were monitoring a dike in Tonto Creek south of the Bar X crossing which is near 75 homes. Sandbags are available to patch it, but residents should be aware.
County officials will work to barricade flooded roads as quickly as possible, but people should continue to be careful when crossing a running wash.