Ariz. Residents Dry Out After Flood
Oct. 25, 2000
WENDEN, Ariz. (AP) _ Receding floodwater left Susan Rohrig's house smeared with mud, but she didn't cry until finding her children's shoes, soaked and stained.
``I sort of lost it back there,'' said Rohrig, who wept while dumping a plastic storage box packed with soggy shoes on her front lawn. Two of her children hosed them down.
She and her family were among about 500 residents evacuated from Wenden and nearby Salome on Sunday who began returning to dig out after a flash flood that had ripped apart asphalt, dumped as much as a foot of dirt and gravel in yards, submerged vehicles and knocked mobile homes off their bases.
Preliminary estimates showed the flood caused at least $2 million in damage to the town's roads, bridges and other infrastructure. The estimate isn't in yet for homes, vehicles and the county's melon and cotton crops, which were being harvested.
An Army National Guard helicopter resumed searching for two men whom witnesses said had been swept away by floodwaters. Five others, all migrant workers, were believed to be missing. Authorities weren't sure if the five had been caught in the flood.
Lt. Don Davis said the sheriff's office would be conducting ground searches once the water receded. The National Weather Service forecast dry weather for the next several days.
Rohrig and her husband, Lowell, said their home was a total loss with water marks reaching two feet up the walls.
``It's devastating. This is what me and my wife worked for,'' said Lowell Rohrig Jr. ``It's not just me. We're lucky. Look down the street.''
Nearby, three barefoot men were pulling clothes, a radio, a VCR and other belongings from a mud-encrusted shack in one of the worst-hit areas. A bicycle lay half-buried in the backyard.
Antonio Santos, one of hundreds of migrant farm workers in the area for the harvest, said he and others were returning to Mexico.
He wasn't alone.
``It looks like we're going back to Mexico because there's no work and too much water,'' said Ivan Obeso.
Rain began over the weekend, sending the flood rushing toward Wenden, a town of about 1,200 people 90 miles west of Phoenix, and nearby Salome, on Sunday. Because of the desert terrain, water doesn't soak into the ground, and Sunday's rainfall was joined by floodwater pouring in from higher elevations.
The Army National Guard sent about 30 guardsmen, all-terrain vehicles and other equipment to Wenden to help clear the roads and to recover vehicles, some piled like discarded children's toys. The Federal Emergency Management Agency also sent a team to Wenden.
About 100 people were still in a high school shelter Tuesday in Parker, about 40 miles to the northwest. While the numbers dropped, some people were resigned to staying a while longer.
Maria San Juanita Hunt said her mobile home and those belonging to family members were unlivable, with several inches of mud covering the floors and at least one ripped apart by the violent surge of water. She said the family had nowhere to go now.
``When we got out of there the water was to my chest. We were grabbing our kids and getting out of there,'' said Hunt, crying. ``We all managed to get out safe and alive, that's what counts right now.''
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La Paz County: http://www.co.la-paz.az.us