Clean Up Begins After Flooding North Of Phoenix

By  Stina Sieg
August 21, 2014

(Photo by Stina Sieg - KJZZ)
The little towns that dot Interstate 17 north of Phoenix are still recovering from Tuesday's monsoon. Above is a small road, now closed, in New River.

Monsoon rains hit Phoenix hard on Tuesday, but the deluge did far more damage in areas north of the city. Interstate 17 northbound was closed for several hours, and people had to be rescued from submerged vehicles and one home. Residents are still taking stock of the damage, and many are just beginning a clean-up effort.

River’s Edge RV Park in Black Canyon City looks peaceful — and empty. Instead of trailers, there are lawn chairs, a grill and a bike, all stuck in feet of gooey mud. These and a grab bag of other items had to be left behind by residents when water rushed in.

“Nobody’s here,” said Michael Rudd, a guy in a cowboy hat and aviator glasses who both lives and works at the park.

He has now returned to his camper, but at one point, he said, the water was belly “button high.” That’s when he was evacuated along with everyone else in the park.

“The water was like a big whirlpool out here,” he said.

Now, it’s just a big mess, one that Rudd will have to help clean up. But he’s not complaining.

“Well, you know, it’s just going to be something to deal with for a while,” he said, almost nonchalantly. “A couple of weeks, it will dry up. It’s going to be muddy. It’s going to be really bad for a couple days.”

Farther downstream, it doesn’t look to be drying up any time soon. About 10 miles south in the town of New River, a usually dry river bed is flowing with water. Several roads are closed, including the one that leads to Jim Spain’s house. He inspected the crumbling asphalt and silt washed across the road.

“I’ve lived here 40 years, I’ve never seen this river this high,” he said. “It tore trees out, 60-to-70-foot trees, it just took ’em out.”

Spain can still get to his home on rugged back roads, but said he doesn’t know how all his neighbors are doing, because he definitely can’t reach their houses. While the intensity of the recent monsoon was surprising, Spain has seen plenty of flooding in this wash over the years — just not this bad.

“When this thing fills up with brush and trees Mother Nature comes along and washes it out,” he said.

But that process can be a shock for a newbie. Vicky Khatum has lived in Anthem about a year, and this was her first major flood. Her home is on high ground, but the surrounding area was swamped. The day of the monsoon, she drove up to New River to watch the flood from a bridge. She stood in the same spot a day later.

“The water level almost reached the bridge,” she said, looking down. “You know, it was scary.”

It had lowered dramatically, but there were still a few feet of brown floodwater flowing around rocks and branches. And people were still pulling over and clicking photos on their cell phones. Khatum is glad the water is quickly receding.  

“Luckily today, we got, you know, some sun,” she said, “and hopefully things will dry up and get back to normal.”

It’s still too early to tell if she’ll get her wish. More flooding in the area is not expected, but the National Weather Service is predicting a chance of thunderstorms through the weekend.