Floods force dramatic rescues in Phoenix area

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Serious Flash Flooding in Arizona

By BRIAN SKOLOFF & PAUL DAVENPORT

PHOENIX (AP) -- Flooding from heavy monsoon season rains in the Phoenix area forced authorities on Tuesday to close several major roads, including a portion of Interstate 17, while elsewhere dramatic scenes were playing out as motorists were pulled from partially submerged vehicles and a helicopter crew rescued stranded residents from a home surrounded by swift-moving waters.

A small trailer park was evacuated in a town about 40 miles north of the metro area, and a north Phoenix high school temporarily relocated 12 classrooms of students because of flooding in portions of the building.

The National Weather Service issued a flash flood warning for much of the metro area and north of the city where up to 8 inches of rain fell by midday in some of the mountainous regions along the interstate.

Floods force dramatic rescues in Phoenix area

Some #phoenix kids are taking advantage of all this rain! #abc15 pic.twitter.com/SnitFP3Vz8

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Flash flood waters from the overrun Skunk Creek flood I-10, Tuesday, Aug. 19, 2014, in northwestern Phoenix. Flooding from heavy rain in the Phoenix area has forced authorities to close several major roads, including a portion of Interstate 17 about 25 miles north of the city. (AP Photo/Matt York)
Flash flood waters overrun Skunk Creek through the Sonoran Desert, Tuesday, Aug. 19, 2014, in northwestern Phoenix. Flooding from heavy rain in the Phoenix area has forced authorities to close several major roads, including a portion of Interstate 17 about 25 miles north of the city. (AP Photo/Matt York)
Flash flood waters from the overrun Skunk Creek flood I-10, Tuesday, Aug. 19, 2014, in northwestern Phoenix. Flooding from heavy rain in the Phoenix area has forced authorities to close several major roads, including a portion of Interstate 17 about 25 miles north of the city. (AP Photo/Matt York)
Flash flood waters from the overrun Skunk Creek flood I-10, Tuesday, Aug. 19, 2014, in northwestern Phoenix. Flooding from heavy rain in the Phoenix area has forced authorities to close several major roads, including a portion of Interstate 17 about 25 miles north of the city. (AP Photo/Matt York)
A city of Phoenix official blocks a closed section of road as flash flood waters overrun Skunk Creek through the Sonoran Desert, Tuesday, Aug. 19, 2014, in northwestern Phoenix. Flooding from heavy rain in the Phoenix area has forced authorities to close several major roads, including a portion of Interstate 17 about 25 miles north of the city. (AP Photo/Matt York)
Ramiro Pantaleon watches flash flood waters overrun Skunk Creek through the Sonoran Desert, Tuesday, Aug. 19, 2014, in northwestern Phoenix. Flooding from heavy rain in the Phoenix area has forced authorities to close several major roads, including a portion of Interstate 17 about 25 miles north of the city. (AP Photo/Matt York)
A bucket loader tries to build up a sand barrier as flash flood waters overrun Skunk Creek through the Sonoran Desert, Tuesday, Aug. 19, 2014, in northwestern Phoenix. Flooding from heavy rain in the Phoenix area has forced authorities to close several major roads, including a portion of Interstate 17 about 25 miles north of the city. (AP Photo/Matt York)
Flash flood waters from the overrun Skunk Creek flood I-10, Tuesday, Aug. 19, 2014, in northwestern Phoenix. Flooding from heavy rain in the Phoenix area has forced authorities to close several major roads, including a portion of Interstate 17 about 25 miles north of the city. (AP Photo/Matt York)
Flash flood waters from the overrun Skunk Creek flood I-10, Tuesday, Aug. 19, 2014, in northwestern Phoenix. Flooding from heavy rain in the Phoenix area has forced authorities to close several major roads, including a portion of Interstate 17 about 25 miles north of the city. (AP Photo/Matt York)
A tractor trailer drives through flash flood waters that overran Skunk Creek, Tuesday, Aug. 19, 2014, in northwestern Phoenix. Flooding from heavy rain in the Phoenix area has forced authorities to close several major roads, including a portion of Interstate 17 about 25 miles north of the city. (AP Photo/Matt York)
Larry Price hoses off his muddy driveway, Wednesday, Aug. 13, 2014, after flash flood waters ripped through the Laveen area of Phoenix overnight. The National Weather Service says showers lingered into mid-morning and that south Phoenix got hit hard with 2-3 inches of rain. (AP Photo/Matt York)
Mountain run-off is shown on streets, Wednesday, Aug. 13, 2014, after flash flood waters ripped through the Laveen area of Phoenix overnight. A flash flood watch remains in effect in the Phoenix area and other parts of the south-central and southwestern Arizona a day after a monsoon hit the area. (AP Photo/Matt York)
As lightning streaks across the stormy sky, motorists park in front of a washed out road in South Mountain Park as heavy rains caused flash flooding and stranded dozens of cars Tuesday, Aug. 12, 2014, in Phoenix. (AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin)
Cars try to navigate a flooded road as the heavy rains pour down, sending a torrent of runoff from South Mountain across the road in South Mountain Park as severe flash flooding stranded dozens of cars and closed several roads Tuesday, Aug. 12, 2014, in Phoenix. (AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin)
Flood water remains along Dobbins road, Wednesday, Aug. 13, 2014, after flash flood waters ripped through the Laveen area of Phoenix overnight. The National Weather Service says showers lingered into mid-morning and that south Phoenix got hit hard with 2-3 inches of rain. (AP Photo/Matt York)
The path of flood waters is shown along a road, Wednesday, Aug. 13, 2014, after flash flood waters ripped through the Laveen area of Phoenix overnight. The National Weather Service says showers lingered into mid-morning and that south Phoenix got hit hard with 2-3 inches of rain. (AP Photo/Matt York)
Judy Mercado goes through her belongings in her flood damaged home, Wednesday, Aug. 13, 2014, after flash flood waters ripped through the Laveen area of Phoenix overnight. The National Weather Service says showers lingered into mid-morning and that south Phoenix got hit hard with 2-3 inches of rain. (AP Photo/Matt York)
With several portions of road washed away, covered with debris, or too close to washed out drainage areas, South Mountain Park remains closed to motorists, Friday, Aug. 15, 2014, in Phoenix, three days after a powerful monsoon storm hit, dumping nearly four inches of rain in some areas, causing flash flooding of up to seven feet of water in some places. (AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin)
Crews clean up streets, Wednesday, Aug. 13, 2014, after flash flood waters ripped through the Laveen area of Phoenix overnight. The National Weather Service says showers lingered into mid-morning and that south Phoenix got hit hard with 2-3 inches of rain. (AP Photo/Matt York)
Crews push run-off flood water off the streets and into a canal, Wednesday, Aug. 13, 2014, after flash flood waters ripped through the Laveen area of Phoenix overnight. The National Weather Service says showers lingered into mid-morning and that south Phoenix got hit hard with 2-3 inches of rain. (AP Photo/Matt York)
Daniel Magos talks on the phone with his insurance provider in his flooded driveway, Wednesday, Aug. 13, 2014, after flash flood waters ripped through the Laveen area of Phoenix overnight. The National Weather Service says showers lingered into mid-morning and that south Phoenix got hit hard with 2-3 inches of rain. (AP Photo/Matt York)
Larry Price hoses off his muddy driveway, Wednesday, Aug. 13, 2014, after flash flood waters ripped through the Laveen area of Phoenix overnight. The National Weather Service says showers lingered into mid-morning and that south Phoenix got hit hard with 2-3 inches of rain. (AP Photo/Matt York)
Judy Mercado goes through her belongings in her flood damaged home, Wednesday, Aug. 13, 2014, after flash flood waters ripped through the Laveen area of Phoenix overnight. The National Weather Service says showers lingered into mid-morning and that south Phoenix got hit hard with 2-3 inches of rain. (AP Photo/Matt York)
The muddy remnants of a flash flood cover a front yard, Wednesday, Aug. 13, 2014 in Phoenix. Flash flood waters ripped through the Laveen area of Phoenix overnight. The National Weather Service says showers lingered into mid-morning and that south Phoenix got hit hard with 2-3 inches of rain. (AP Photo/Matt York)
Crews clean up streets, Wednesday, Aug. 13, 2014, after flash flood waters ripped through the Laveen area of Phoenix overnight. The National Weather Service says showers lingered into mid-morning and that south Phoenix got hit hard with 2-3 inches of rain. (AP Photo/Matt York)
Judy Mercado begins to clean up her home, Wednesday, Aug. 13, 2014, after flash flood waters ripped through the Laveen area of Phoenix overnight. The National Weather Service says showers lingered into mid-morning and that south Phoenix got hit hard with 2-3 inches of rain. (AP Photo/Matt York)
Dozens of stranded motorists get word from City of Phoenix Parks and Recreation officers on the status of flooded roads inside South Mountain Park as heavy rains caused flash flooding Tuesday, Aug. 12, 2014, in Phoenix. (AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin)
Daniel Magos talks on the phone with his insurance provider, Wednesday, Aug. 13, 2014, after flash flood waters ripped through the Laveen area of Phoenix overnight. A flash flood watch remains in effect in the Phoenix area and other parts of the south-central and southwestern Arizona a day after a monsoon hit the area. (AP Photo/Matt York)
A stranded motorist is rescued by a firefighter as heavy rains caused flash flooding, stranding cars Tuesday, Aug. 12, 2014, in Laveen, Ariz. Authorities say at least six people have been rescued from vehicles that were stuck in flooded streets in Phoenix. (AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin)
Firefighters arrive to rescue stranded motorists as heavy rains caused flash flooding, stranding cars Tuesday, Aug. 12, 2014, in Laveen, Ariz. Authorities say at least six people have been rescued from vehicles that were stuck in flooded streets in Phoenix. (AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin)
As heavy rains pour down, motorists try to navigate a flooded street Tuesday, Aug. 12, 2014, in Phoenix. The severe flash flooding stranded dozens of motorists in the metro area. (AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin)
A man is rescued from his car by a Phoenix firefighter as heavy rains caused flash flooding, stranding dozens of motorists in their cars Tuesday, Aug. 12, 2014, in Phoenix. (AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin)
Speeding flash flood waters closes the main road in South Mountain Park as heavy rains caused major flash flooding and stranded dozens cars Tuesday, Aug. 12, 2014, in Phoenix. (AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin)
Speeding flash flood waters close the main road in South Mountain Park as heavy rains caused major flash flooding, stranding dozens cars Tuesday, Aug. 12, 2014, in Phoenix. (AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin)
Drivers try to navigate a flooded street as heavy rains caused flash flooding, stranding dozens of cars Tuesday, Aug. 12, 2014, in Phoenix. (AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin)
Motorists find a road flooded out in South Mountain Park as heavy rains caused flash flooding, stranding dozens of cars around the metro area Tuesday, Aug. 12, 2014, in Phoenix. (AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin)
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The storms are expected to affect a large area of the state throughout the day.

"It's like a conveyor belt of showers coming through here," National Weather Service meteorologist Ken Waters said. "We're seeing new cells popping up in the Phoenix area and just outside the Phoenix area."

Sporadic storms are expected to continue in the area for the next few days.

Dramatic aerial television footage Tuesday showed a river of muddy water rushing down I-17 about 25 miles north of Phoenix as motorists changed lanes to avoid the deluge. Another scene showed authorities pulling an elderly woman from a van stuck in fast-moving floodwaters.

In New River, about 30 miles north of Phoenix, a helicopter lowered a rescuer to the roof of a home surrounded by rushing waters in an effort to pull trapped residents to safety. The scene played out on live television Tuesday afternoon as the rescuer tried to reach the residents.

The Arizona Department of Public Safety closed a roughly 15-mile stretch of I-17, redirecting traffic into the southbound lanes back toward Phoenix.

Officials said it's unclear when the highway will reopen, and Waters expects several more inches of rain in the area over the next few hours.

The Arizona Department of Transportation will have to clear the road of mud and debris when the floodwaters recede to allow authorities to reopen one lane at a time hopefully by the afternoon, DPS spokesman Bart Graves said.

"Earlier we were very concerned that it was moving so fast that it would take over I-17 completely both northbound and southbound," Graves said. "But it didn't, so now ADOT is going to have to sweep that water out of there, which is going to be a long, arduous project."

Rocks also washed down a hillside onto I-17 about 60 miles north of Phoenix, causing several vehicle collisions, but no deaths or major injuries have been reported, Graves said.

Meanwhile, residents of a small trailer park in Black Canyon City along a river about 40 miles north of Phoenix were evacuated late Tuesday morning, according to the Yavapai County Sheriff's Office.

There had so far been minimal flooding damage to the park, but authorities wanted to get residents to a safe location because water has damaged roads in the vicinity, sheriff's spokesman Dwight D'Evelyn said.

Firefighters from Phoenix and the Daisy Mountain Fire District on Phoenix's northern outskirts rescued at least six motorists in separate incidents, Phoenix Fire Capt. Benjamin Santillan said.

"We've got units jumping from one car to the next to the next," Santillan said, adding that there have been no reports of injuries.

Floodwaters also filled Skunk Creek in the New River area north of Phoenix, carrying debris that included plastic plant pots from a nursery, tires, coolers and garbage bins.

Several other roads north of Phoenix also have been closed due to flooding.


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