Phoenix's Rainiest Day on Record Causes "Extensive Damage"

A storm that crossed through Arizona yesterday produced the rainiest day ever recorded in Phoenix history, plus caused plenty of damage along the way.

Phoenix Mayor Greg Stanton declared a state of emergency to deal with "extensive damage" flooding did around the city, especially to homes.

Stanton said he and city management "have not put a budget on our response" to storm damage.

See also: -Storm Around Phoenix Causing Power Outages, Traffic Nightmares -Flooding From Record Rain Means Fun for Some, Problems for Others

Stanton said his emergency declaration "allows us to immediately bring on any resources, not only resources from the city organization itself, but also [from] outside resources, including quickly as possible. Having to go through the typical procurement process...can actually take time -- we don't have time right now. We need to get as many resources out there to help people as quickly as possible."

Governor Jan Brewer also declared a state of emergency in Maricopa and La Paz counties. More counties could be added as the storm passes through the state.

The governor's declaration frees up $200,000 from the state's general fund for the director of the state's emergency-management department to manage. It also allows for the mobilization of the National Guard.

There's no price-tag yet on the cost of the response and damage caused to public infrastructure by flooding in Maricopa County, but it was extensive. There were flood basins overflowing into neighborhoods and even flooding on Interstate 10 that drowned cars early yesterday morning.

At the city press conference, county Flood Control District chief engineer Bill Wiley said the county's 140 flood-control structures and 22 dams were all "operating well."

Wiley added, "That being said, after this is over, we need to re-look at those structures and look . . . at other areas of need, and that's going to be a critical assessment throughout the county."

In Phoenix, many homes were damaged in south Phoenix and Ahwatukee. A storm in mid-August caused flooding and damage to several south Phoenix homes, and some of those same homes were hit again.

Phoenix Assistant Fire Chief Kevin Kalkbrenner said the city's response to the flooding is a lot heavier in south Phoenix.

"We have diverted a lot of heavy equipment down [there]," he said. "One of the techniques [we're] using is to take a grader and go through at high speed and push a lot the water into the farm fields."

Stanton said people whose homes already were damaged by storms last month were just cleared yesterday for low- or no-interest loans from the U.S. Small Business Administration for repairs, and even more federal funding could be sought if necessary.

"We are aware that there are a lot of people in Phoenix who suffered flood damage who do not have flood insurance," Stanton said. "Over the coming days, you're going to hear [about] a lot of efforts of this city coming together, [of] us partnering with local agencies, nonprofits, and other organizations that help, [and with] companies that have a big heart and either want to donate time, treasure, or talent to help people in need."

City officials ask that people with more than 6 inches of water in their homes contact local government so it's known where resources should be diverted. The city has set up a webpage with updates on the storm, including road closures, and with points of contact within Phoenix government.

One indication of how many problems the flooding caused is how many people called for help. The Phoenix Fire Department got 1,300 calls yesterday morning, while police got about 3,500. Those calls include requests for 14 water rescues.

However, in the Valley, there were no reported injuries or deaths from flooding. A fire official said the level of calls to police and fire returned to normal by yesterday evening.

According to the National Weather Service, the storm was a remnant of Hurricane Norbert, which had been swirling off the coast of Mexico's Baja peninsula. It could still cause some rain around Phoenix through tomorrow. Some areas could have "brief periods of heavy rain" tomorrow, according to an NWS statement.

The 3.29 inches of rain recorded at Sky Harbor airport set a one-day record, as the most recorded since at least 1895. Some areas showed even more than that, with one meter in Chandler recording nearly 6 inches of rain.

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Matthew Hendley
Contact: Matthew Hendley