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Valley Storms Delays Flights, Flooding Prompts Water Rescues

Vehicles backed up on the Happy Valley exit of I-17.
(Photo by Stina Sieg - KJZZ)
Vehicles backed up on the Happy Valley exit of I-17.

Today’s severe rain storm is causing flight delays at Phoenix Sky Harbor Airport. Spokeswoman Julie Rodriguez said all airlines are reporting two-hour delays for departures and some arriving flights have been diverted to other cities. She said it will be a long day for travelers and staff at Sky Harbor.

“In many cases passengers are on the planes and they're in line waiting to take off," Rodriguez said. "Then we have meeters and greeters waiting for passengers to arrive.”

Rodriguez urges everyone to contact their airlines for an update on flights at Sky Harbor today and tonight.

Phoenix Mayor Greg Stanton and Councilwoman Kate Gallego came to the South Mountain neighborhood to see the damage from the flood Tuesday. Homeowner David Hansen says the flooding in his neighborhood is an ongoing problem. 

“It’s a cycle every time it rains we get flooded on our streets," Hansen said. "It does not change. So we are trying to figure out what needs to happen. What needs to change to fix it so we don’t get flooded every rain.”

He says the canals and retention ponds nearby are overflowing. Half of Hansen’s home is not livable because water soaked the walls and floors. Like many of his neighbors he did not have flood insurance. Councilwoman Gallego says now the best way for people to get aid is through the charities. 

“We are hopeful that we can get more resources and that the attention that we are getting today also with the nonprofit and the business community," Hansen said.

Gallego says she is working to get a disaster declaration by the state. With this designation flood victims can get aid in the form of low-interest loans, money and state assistance. But without that aid homeowners are left to pay for everything themselves.

Interstate 17 northbound was closed for several hours and in Black Canyon City a trailer park had to be evacuated. Jarrod Williamson works at the Rock Springs Café in town. He says many nearby businesses remain closed due to the rain.

"It looked like Niagara Falls not even five minutes ago, and now the sun is up and there’s no rain, but we’re expecting it to rain again here soon," Williamson said.

Earlier today, two people and two dogs were rescued from their home in Black Canyon City. Across the Valley, a handful of drivers also had to be pulled from their vehicles stuck in floodwaters.

The Arizona Department of Transportation says northbound I-17 near Black Canyon City is partially open following a rock slide earlier Tuesday.

Debris is being removed from the road by ADOT crews and there may be long lines of traffic, but vehicles can pass the rock slide located on I-17 northbound near Table Mesa Road.

Spokesman Doug Nintzel said anyone who plans to travel north on that stretch of the interstate should find an alternate route.

The River’s Edge RV Park in Black Canyon City has been ordered to evacuate because of local flooding.

A shelter has been set up for residents of the RV park at Canyon Elementary School in Black Canyon City.

Nintzel said traffic on I-17 at Greenway Road in Phoenix is moving at a normal pace again after deep water accumulated there during Tuesday morning's storm.

Rain around the Valley on Tuesday morning put several vehicles in trouble.

Phoenix Fire Department Captain Benjamin Santillan said there were six water rescues taking place at one time early Tuesday morning and now there are 40 units working on water rescues.

One of the most affected areas is Daisy Mountain in New River.

“Daisy Mountain is actually getting bombarded right now with multiple water rescues. One of the most severe ones we do is have a young lady in a Jeep. It looks like there’s running water all the way up to the doors," Santillan said.

Santillan said north Phoenix and Scottsdale as well as Laveen are experiencing the worst flooding and that drivers should be careful not to drive into areas where they suspect the water is high or flowing.

The Flood Control District of Maricopa County said Tuesday morning's heavy rains are still creating flash floods in northern parts of the Valley. 

Aisha Alexander of the Flood Control District said the latest round of showers is a setback for crews still cleaning up after last week’s floods in South Phoenix.

“Along Dobbins Road we saw where those repairs were being made it caused another issue this morning, specifically along 27th Avenue where water accumulated more quickly because of the storms earlier last week so it creates a dangerous situation," Alexander said.

Alexander said Skunk Creek is overflowing its banks near 35th Avenue in North Phoenix.

She also said the Hassayampa River through Wickenburg west of Phoenix also is rising. 

Central Arizona Project officials said Tuesday's heavy rains may have compromised water quality for millions of its customers in Phoenix and Tucson. 

Spokesman Bob Barrett said flood waters from Skunk Creek on the north side of Phoenix are flowing into the CAP canal. 

He said cities and towns that depend on CAP water are being notified about “turbidity” caused by mud and sediment.

“They can all treat that water, or they can just stop taking water from the CAP system and wait until Skunk Creek stops overflowing and stops getting into CAP and that water will go past them and resume taking the water they would normally take," Barrett said.

Barrett said there’s no reason for CAP customers to boil their water. He said cities and towns have plenty of stored water they can use until the flood waters subside.

Updated 8/19/14 at 6:07 p.m.