SEDONA — A flood warning for Oak Creek in Sedona was downgraded to an advisory Thursday, hours after some residents were told to prepare for evacuations.
The City of Sedona said in a statement around 6 p.m. Wednesday that a dozen areas including the Rancho Sedona RV park and the Center for the New Age were in “go” status, meaning they should evacuate immediately.
A shelter for the area was set up at the gym of Camp Verde Middle School as a precaution.
But the National Weather Service in Flagstaff said only minor to moderate flooding was expected Thursday along Oak Creek, Wet Beaver Creek, the Verde River and the Little Colorado River.
The weather agency said that because of snowmelt at higher elevations and rain, minor to moderate flooding was forecast along Oak Creek affecting access roads, buildings and residences.
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The creek was nearing a flood stage level of 14 feet Wednesday evening, but weather officials said water had receded to about 9 feet by 4 a.m. Thursday.
State Route 89A was closed in both directions between Sedona and I-17 near Flagstaff before 8 p.m. on Wednesday, according to the Arizona Department of Transportation.
There were several places along 89A between Sedona and the Scenic Overlook where rocks slid onto the road due to soil erosion after Wednesday’s storm.
Near milepost 388, small rocks and debris heaped onto the highway accumulating in a roadblock large enough to force the state route’s closure.
Crews are clearing the large amount of debris from the roadway, and have been at work since Wednesday night.
“The biggest challenge is the narrowness of the corridor,” an ADOT spokesperson told the Arizona Daily Sun. “There’s a mountain on one side of the highway and a canyon on the other. Crews are utilizing dump trucks and other large equipment to haul away as much material as possible. There is no room onsite to stockpile rocks and material, so crews have to haul it to a yard offsite and return to collect more. Several maintenance units are helping with the clean-up.”
ADOT had not estimated a reopening time as of Thursday afternoon.
Right now, ADOT is working with the Federal Highway Administration on an eleven million dollar improvement project on 89A. The project is set to be complete toward the end of this year, and is designed to mitigate the risk of rockfall, manage drainage and sediment control and rehabilitate the Pumphouse Wash Bride.
According to ADOT, despite ongoing mitigation efforts, more rockfalls are possible, with rain in the forecast.
Until the current road closure is lifted, ADOT is encouraging travelers to use alternative routes in and out of Sedona. They also direct travelers to call 511 or rely on az511.gov, the AZ511 app for the most updated closure information.
The likelihood of rain and snow showers persists into the middle of next week, according to the National Weather Service forecast, with a brief window of mostly sunny conditions on Saturday.