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Hundreds Evacuated After Rain, Dam Break Near Grand Canyon

August 18, 2008

By Amanda Lee Myers

PHOENIX – Days of heavy rains around the Grand Canyon caused an earthen dam to fail Sunday and created flooding that forced helicopters to pluck hundreds of residents and campers from the gorge. No injuries were reported Sunday.

The failure of the Redlands Dam caused some flooding in Supai, a village on the canyon floor where about 400 members of the Havasupai tribe live, said Grand Canyon National Park spokeswoman Maureen Oltrogge. The flooding and the potential for more required the evacuations, she said.

No structures were damaged after the dam failed about 45 miles upstream from Supai, but some hiking trails and footbridges were washed out, she said. Trees were uprooted, the National Weather Service said.

Nearly 80 people had evacuated as of early Sunday evening, said Red Cross spokeswoman Tracey Kiest. Evacuations were still in progress.

As much as 8 inches of rain since Friday caused trouble even before the dam burst. A private boating party of 16 people was stranded on a ledge at the confluence of Havasu Creek and the Colorado River Saturday night after flood waters carried their rafts away, Oltrogge said.

The boaters were found uninjured and were being rescued from the Grand Canyon, whose floor is unreachable in many places except by helicopter.

Rescuers were trying to find visitors staying at the Supai Campground and escort them to safety, Oltrogge said.

Evacuees were flown to a parking area 8 miles from Supai and then, if needed, bused to a Red Cross shelter in Peach Springs, about 60 miles southwest of Supai.

The area got 3 to 6 inches of rain Friday and Saturday and got about 2 more Sunday, said Daryl Onton, a Weather Service meteorologist in Flagstaff.

“That’s all it took – just a few days of very heavy thunderstorms,” he said.

Supai is on Havasu and Cataract creeks about 30 miles northwest of Grand Canyon Village, a popular tourist area on the south rim. Havasu Creek feeds the Colorado, which runs the length of the canyon.

The helicopters lifting residents out were from the National Park Service, the National Guard and the Arizona Department of Public Safety, Oltrogge said.

Originally published by The Associated Pres.

(c) 2008 Charleston Gazette, The. Provided by ProQuest LLC. All rights Reserved.




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