Friday's thunderstorm pounded Flagstaff from east to west, bringing another flash flood warning to the Schultz fire burn area and partially filling the dip and stranding a car under the downtown Milton Road underpass.

The mid-afternoon bursts led the Coconino County Sheriff's Office to temporarily close Highway 89 between Silver Saddle Road and Sunset Crater, along with several other residential roads. Reports from county officials had water flowing curb to curb on Campbell Avenue, washing over debris and large rocks. However, there were no calls for help for injured or stranded area residents.

Localized street flooding also snarled traffic and activity throughout the city, especially near downtown when the Milton Road underpass flooded and all four lanes of traffic were closed for about two hours.

For the day, Pulliam Airport recorded 1.32 inches, most of it falling between about 3 and 4 p.m. Northern Arizona University saw 1.71 inches, and about 1 inch fell outside a weather spotter's home in Timberline.


Lt. Ken Koch from the Flagstaff Police Department said the weather event required the department to bring in a squad of officers an hour before their usual shift start time to help with traffic control. The most serious flooding, at the underpass, was a result of both rain and a burst pipe nearby.

"We had a pretty busy three hours or so," Koch said.

He said the low-lying Soliere, Enterprise and Huntington also flooded. At the underpass, the water was hip-deep to an officer directing traffic. However, the water was not swift-moving.

A white sedan became disabled at the northeast curve when its driver misjudged the depth of the water, but the driver was able to get out without injury and a bystander pulled the car out, Koch said.

The water drained on its own and with the help of a pump, and traffic was moving freely by 6 p.m. Koch said the underpass is known to flood and would have flooded Friday even without the burst pipe. He warned motorists to avoid the downtown area during heavy rain.


The National Weather Service put the Timberline, Fernwood and Wupatki Trails neighborhoods under an afternoon flash flood warning for the area's sixth flood event in less than two weeks. Rain was widespread throughout northern Arizona.

Near Page, rescuers helped eight people trapped in an afternoon flash flood in Upper Antelope Canyon. According to the sheriff's office, a 4-and-a-half foot wall of water rushed through an area of the canyon commonly known as "Corkscrew," stranding the tourists on a ledge.

Tour group organizers and local residents rescued a family of four, and emergency responders walked the remaining tourists, including a 10-year-old, to safety after flood waters receded. A sheriff's lieutenant reported that 45 minutes after the second group was safely extracted, another wall of water rushed through the canyon, this time empty.


Justin Johndrow, a meteorologist at the NWS Bellemont office, said this is typical monsoon rainfall. The rain isn't coming from the sky in unusual amounts -- four gauges scattered within the Schultz burn area collected between about a quarter to a half an inch of rain Friday -- but what that water does when it hits the ground is more dramatic, as the scorched ground can no longer absorb the moisture and it instead rushes toward the neighborhoods.

Whether on foot, in cars or on off-road vehicles, people are advised to use extreme caution around ditches, culverts and trenches -- especially the newly dug trenches along Highway 89, which have edges that can easily break off under weight. The trenches might be unstable due to loose soil in and around them.

Residents with livestock may bring their animals to Fort Tuthill County Park (the fairgrounds) south of Flagstaff for shelter as rain is expected to continue. The Second Chance Center for Animals is staffing the Fort Tuthill facility and will process and place the animals.

The Red Cross closed its emergency shelter at Flagstaff Middle School at 6 p.m. and will re-open it if necessary.

More rain is likely today and Sunday, with showers heavy at times and high temperatures in the low 70s.

Hillary Davis can be reached at or 556-2261.

(1) comment


Fire burn area rain guages don't tell the whole story. Yesterday, there was heavy localized rain in Timberline, causing the stripped, hard, landscape to flood in the neighborhood. Water and mud came into homes (without fire debris from the mountain) and mud clogged streets. Roads closed for hours. Homes cannot be fully repaired as long these conditions keep soaking walls and floors. People are living in mud and dirty water. Can you spell ON-GOING disaster?

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