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Gila Bend Flash Flood Shocks Town, Destroys Collection Of Historic Items

The cleanup in Gila Bend continues after last week’s flash flood. More than a hundred homes and businesses were damaged by floodwaters. 

Mayor Chris Riggs says it may take six months to return to normal in the small town 70 miles southwest of Phoenix, but some things lost in the flood are gone forever.

The flood swept through a private museum owned by Elizabeth Cool, devoted to her grandfather. 

For the past week, Cool has been sitting outside of an old building in Gila Bend, sifting through old pictures of her grandfather Lyndon “Lynn” Cool, to see which ones are able to be salvaged. Years of historical items were buried in water and mud.

Lynn Cool was a Gila Bend resident for over 50 years, spending most of that time as a volunteer firefighter. Cool says her grandfather was known for his pit barbecues.

“There’s just so much stuff that went on here. Most of the biggest shindigs ever thrown in town were thrown here at Cool Camp. All those photos are in there somewhere too, the photos of all the parties, I don’t know if they’re good anymore,” said Cool.

Cool Camp, as it came to be known, was a community gathering spot, whether it be for parties, for the Boy Scouts of America, or for people looking for a taste of Gila Bend history.

Cool says she was able to preserve some items, including photos of her grandfather, and collections he left behind.

During the flood, heavy winds and rains knocked down power lines and tipped over vehicles.

Alma Morris is the administrator at the First Baptist Church of Gila Bend. She says that when the flood hit, help and donations were immediate and constant.

“We had an overwhelming response with the donations, whether monetary, supplies, clothes, that line of donations was like 24 hours straight, it was just pouring in,” said Morris.

Four died as a result of the flooding, which measured 3.9 inches in a 24-hour period at a rain gauge near Gila Bend.

Vaughan Jones is the weekend reporter for KJZZ, and a graduate of ASU’s Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communications. He graduated with a bachelor’s degree in sports journalism, with a minor in music. As a Phoenix native, Jones’s dream is to serve his community by covering important stories in the metropolitan area.He spent two years as music director at Blaze Radio, ASU’s student-run radio station. His passion for radio stems from joining Blaze his freshman year as a DJ.When he is not working, Jones can be found writing music with his band, playing video games with his friends, or watching his favorite Phoenix-area sports teams.