1 hurt, 5 homes lost in Virgin River flooding

Dec 22 2010 - 2:31pm

BEAVER DAM, Ariz. -- Five vacant homes have been swept away by flooding in northwestern Arizona since a powerful storm system arrived -- and more were in danger, fire officials said Wednesday.

The homes that washed away Tuesday were valued at $220,000 each, said Dori Rothenberger, a dispatcher with the Beaver Dam-Littlefield Fire District.

Nearly two dozen homes were damaged and at least three of those could be swept away, Mohave County officials said.

The five structures were among about 180 homes and trailers in the Beaver Dam RV Resort, a golf course community in a wash affected by flooding, said Bill Evans, chairman of the Virgin River Domestic Wastewater Improvement District board.

Flooding had eased from Tuesday night, but "if it rises again, more homes will definitely go," he said.

Resident Tom Gates said the rain seemed heavier Wednesday, and the National Weather Service put the chance of precipitation through Thursday morning at 100 percent.

"Everybody is pulling stuff out of their houses now, ready to get out of here," Gates said as he helped remove pictures, furniture and appliances from the homes of neighbors.

Mohave County officials were monitoring the rainfall and stream flow upstream of the wash and said anybody who had been asked to leave should heed the warning.

Gates had watched as homes collapsed and were carried away in the wash. Electricity was out and water shut off to damaged homes. Neighbors living on higher ground were offering spare bedrooms to those who were leaving their own homes, Gates said.

A busload of inmates was sent from the county jail to help as needed, county spokesman Darryle Purcell said.

Beaver Dam is in the northwest corner of Arizona between Utah and Nevada with a population between 3,500 and 5,000 people.

The same wash flooded in 2005. More than 20 homes in the area were damaged or destroyed that year. About 40 homes and garages in nearby Mesquite, Nev., also were damaged.

"It's kind of odd that it happens twice in five or six years," Gates said. "Things happen, I guess, and it's really too bad."

City officials in Mesquite along the Nevada-Utah border were also preparing for possible flooding along the Virgin River. They said water levels dropped overnight after two homes were slightly damaged Tuesday. No structural damage was reported.

Mesquite spokesman Bryan Dangerfield said the main culprit was ground water flowing in from Utah, where it has steadily rained for days. A voluntary evacuation was in effect and electrical power had been shut off in some neighborhoods to reduce danger.

In northern Nevada, on-and-off snow showers made for slick roads, but no major problems were reported. Chains or snow tires were required for vehicles traveling some of the higher mountain passes such as Interstate 80 over Donner Summit.

Forecasters said the weather should dry out before another wave of storms arrives Christmas night.


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