Storms in Southwestern U.S. knock over trees, drench Phoenix

SHARE Storms in Southwestern U.S. knock over trees, drench Phoenix

PHOENIX — Intense storms swept through the Southwest on Saturday, snapping trees and shrouding metropolitan Phoenix in cascading showers while also bringing flooding to parts of Nevada.

The skies above downtown Phoenix were completely gray as strong winds, thunder and rain hit the region. The outside visibility of buildings was almost entirely obscured by rain and clouds.

The storm forced authorities to close a section of Interstate 17 in Phoenix, with no estimated time for when the freeway would re-open. Flight departures and landings were halted at Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport for about an hour. Airport spokeswoman Julie Rodriguez said more than 30 flights scheduled to land in Phoenix were diverted to other airports.

Branches and debris littered streets around the city and at least one traffic light was knocked over. Some trees were toppled by the ensuing wind. The Salt River Project utility said that about 31,000 customers were without power as of Saturday afternoon.

Most of the outages were in west Phoenix and suburbs west of Phoenix, with smaller clusters reported in Scottsdale, Mesa and Tempe. Utility officials estimated that power would be restored sometime Saturday afternoon.

Phoenix Fire Capt. Benjamin Santillan said firefighters were helping to locate a hiker in south Phoenix stranded by a washed away trail. The woman was hiking with her dog when the rain hit. Santillan said she was able to find her way to a road and crews were using her cellphone signal to find her.

Crews, meanwhile, have been responding to multiple calls around the city of trees falling on vehicles and small electrical-related fires.

The weather was a mix of Phoenix’s first fall storm and leftover monsoon moisture, National Weather Service meteorologist Marvin Percha said. Between ½ inch and 1 inch of rain was expected with more in localized spots.

In southeast Nevada’s rural Moapa Valley, heavy rains brought flooding but authorities say that despite a river cresting at a record high, the damage wasn’t as bad as what was caused by high waters in the area earlier in the month.

Clark County Deputy Fire Chief Jon Klassen said the only evacuations occurred in the tiny town of Warm Springs, but he didn’t know how many people or homes were affected. Roads to the town were flooded and inaccessible.

There were also reports of storm problems in Las Vegas, as well as a power outage in Henderson.

Las Vegas Fire and Rescue spokesman Tim Szymanski said a townhouse was heavily damaged after being hit by lightning, but no one was hurt. He said firefighters also responded to two calls of minor flooding, one at a residence and another at a business.

Authorities responded to cars stuck on Interstate 15, but no one was trapped and the cars were unoccupied, Klassen said.

Interstate 15 just south of Mesquite reopened after flooding closed it in both directions Saturday morning, according to the Nevada Department of Transportation. But southbound travel was reduced to one lane.

In northern Arizona, Flagstaff residents also saw showers, thunder and lightning Saturday morning. The Weather Service also said that nickel-sized hail was reported near Yarnell.

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