Flooding on the west side caused the Arizona levee to break, and the hiker was missing

A levee broke Monday in a small town near the Arizona-New Mexico state line, forcing the evacuation of 60 people after a weekend of flash flooding swept across the American Southwest and swept away a woman who is still missing in Utah’s Zion National Park.

In Duncan, Arizona, a rural town about 180 miles (290 kilometers) from Phoenix, weekend rains submerged a dirt-retaining power pole built a century ago to control the Gila River, inundating the town with inches of water. About 60 residents were evacuated, Fire Chief Hayden Boyd said. The water had already begun to recede, but more was needed before the city could safely return, Boyd added.

The flooding is one of many that have recently wreaked havoc across the drought-stricken region from Dallas, Texas to Las Vegas, Nevada — stranding tourists, closing highways and moving trees and rocks toward cities. Heavy rain fell in the Dallas-Fort Worth areaStreets were flooded and vehicles submerged as authorities warned motorists to stay off the roads.

Rescue crews in southern Utah are expanding their search for a lost hiker trapped in floodwaters. The episode illustrates how worsening climates can turn from picture-worthy paradises enjoyed by millions – including its striking canyons of red rock and limestone – into life-threatening nightmares.

Crews searching for Jedal Agnihotri, 29, of Tucson, Arizona, said their area now includes parts of the Virgin River that exits the southern boundary of Zion National Park, where the Virgin River flows south. Hurricane City. Agnihotri was among a group of trekkers who flooded through one of the park’s many slot canyons, a popular hiking spot. Both the National Weather Service and Washington County, Utah, issued flash flood warnings for the area that day.

All the hikers except Agnihotri were found on higher ground and rescued after water levels receded. Her brother told a local television station that she did not know how to swim.

Zion National Park is one of the most visited recreation areas in the United States and is subject to flood warnings by the National Weather Service, although it often turns dangerous. Flooding can pose a danger to experienced hikers and climbers and to many newcomers to the park since the pandemic boosted the outdoor recreation boom. Despite warnings, flash floods routinely trap people in the park’s slot canyons, which are windowless in some places and hundreds of feet deep.

“Once you get there, if (a flash flood) happens, you’re kind of SOL,” said Scott Cundy, whose Arizona-based hiking company takes visitors on guided tours through the park.

Kandi vividly remembers taking a group on a hike one year and returning to see a wall of water rushing toward them. They hurried to reach the high point in the Grand Canyon, a two-hour drive from Zion. Until a few minutes ago, he had never seen a cloud in the sky. “It happens very fast,” he said. Given the topography, even a hint of rain in Zion’s narrow valleys will cancel trips to Kandy.

To the southeast, nearly 200 hikers had to be rescued in New Mexico, where flooded roads stranded them in Carlsbad Caverns National Park.

In parks like Zion and Carlsbad Caverns, flooding can turn ravines, thin rocks and normally dry washes into deadly channels of fast-moving water and debris. In previous years, walls of water as tall as buildings submerged vehicles, rolled boulders, uprooted trees and submerged what was once solid ground.

In September 2015, similar storms killed seven hikers who drowned in one of Zion’s narrow canyons.

During the same storm, 12 more bodies were found amid mud and debris miles away in Hilldale, Utah, a community on the Utah-Arizona border. A group of women and children were returning from a park in two cars when a wall of water rose from a ravine and dragged them down a flooded embankment, leaving one vehicle mangled beyond recognition. Three boys survived. The body of the 6-year-old boy has not yet been found.

Elsewhere, businesses and roads were closed in Moab, Utah, which was flooded over the weekend. Trees, rocks and red-orange mud washed into the city, flooding cars down the city’s main street.

Although much of the region has been in drought for decades, climate change has made weather patterns more variable and made soils drier and less absorbent, creating conditions more prone to floods and monsoons.

Floodwaters have flooded parts of southern Utah around Moab and Zion throughout the summer, causing streams to tumble down from the area’s red rock cliffs and spill over the sides of riverbanks.


Associated Press reporters Jamie Stenkle, Terry Wallace and Jake Bleiberg in Dallas, Julie Walker in New York, Walt Perry in Phoenix and Brady McCombs in Salt Lake City contributed to this report.

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