Evacuations as rain bursts dam near Grand Canyon
Glenwood Springs, CO Colorado
PHOENIX – Dozens of tourists and Hualapai Tribe members spent the night in shelters after being lifted out of a flood-devastated gorge off the side of the Grand Canyon by helicopters.
Some people who were believed to be in the side canyon along Supai Creek were unaccounted for after the flood struck on Sunday. However, there were no reports of injuries.
Rescuers planned to evaluate weather conditions and the level of flooding Monday morning before deciding when they could safely resume air evacuations, said Grand Canyon National Park spokeswoman Maureen Oltrogge.
On Sunday, Cedar Hemmings and his small party returned from a hike to the spot where they had tied their rafts and discovered they were stranded by the flood.
“We were basically stuck up the canyon without our rafts,” he said. “We had no supplies, no food and very little water, we lost everything.”
The area of northern Arizona got 3 to 6 inches of rain Friday and Saturday and about 2 inches more on Sunday, said Daryl Onton, a National Weather Service meteorologist in Flagstaff. Early Monday, about 0.80 of an inch more fell on the area, the weather service said.
“That’s all it took ” just a few days of very heavy thunderstorms,” Onton said.
About 6 a.m. Sunday, the Redlands Earthen Dam about 45 miles upstream from the Hualapai village of Supai broke, park officials said. The dam isn’t a “huge, significant” structure and its rupture was only one factor in the flooding, said Gerry Blair, a spokesman for the Coconino County Sheriff’s Department.
Hemmings and his group were airlifted out of the scenic gorge by helicopter Sunday, along with about 170 other people.
Rescuers worked throughout Sunday to locate campers and Supai Village residents and evacuate them to the top of the canyon. About 400 Havasupai tribe members live in the village.
Dozens of people spent the night at an American Red Cross evacuation center set up in the Hualapai Tribal Gymnasium in Peach Springs.
Many residents and campers chose to stay in Supai, Blair said. There were no confirmed reports of damage in Supai, which is on high ground, he said.
“We’re not as concerned about it as we initially were,” he said.
Some hiking trails and footbridges were washed out and trees were uprooted, according to park officials and the weather service.
Supai is about 75 miles west of Grand Canyon Village, the popular gateway to Grand Canyon National Park.
In 2001, flooding near Supai swept a 2-year-old boy and his parents to their deaths while they were hiking.
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