• Flash flood closes Havasu Falls area of Grand Canyon; 200 tourists evacuated

    By: USA Today

    Updated:

    About 200 tourists visiting the remote Havasu Falls area of the Grand Canyon were being evacuated via helicopter Thursday because of flash flooding overnight.

    The area is expected to remain closed for 7 to 10 days, and the road leading to the trailhead was closed. Everyone was accounted for and no serious injuries have been reported, said Abbie Fink, spokeswoman for the Havasupai Tribal Council.

    Visitors were moved Wednesday night from the campground that sits between Havasu Falls and Mooney Falls, south of Grand Canyon National Park, to the village of Supai, Arizona, about 2 miles from the campground. They spent the night in the community center and school, Fink said.

    Brian Volk, a member of a Facebook group for hikers headed to the Havasupai area, said his wife, who works for the tribe and is in Supai, told him some hikers stayed behind to help.

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    "The hiking community has me speechless," Volk noted in a Facebook post. "Some of the hikers who went through the ordeal last night are offering to stay and help, rather than be evacuated. Imagine scrambling in fear for your life, losing your wallet, clothes, packs, sleeping in cramped conditions with only the clothes on your back. Then offering to stay and help."

    The tribe said recent monsoon storms in northern Arizona caused two waves of flooding. 

    About 7 feet of floodwaters hit Supai shortly before dark Wednesday and campers were moved then. A second wave hit at about 3:30 a.m. MST Thursday.

    Eric Kremer of Auburn, California, posted four photos in his Facebook feed of brown waters spilling into what is usually a blue-green swimming hole. Tara Brewer of New York City posted video in her feed.

    The waves of flood waters did not hit the village of Supai though some buildings have water damage, the tribe said. The Havasupai Tribal Cafe has electricity and has been open as usual.
     
    Grand Canyon Caverns, a hotel on the way to the Havasupai trailhead, was providing breakfast to evacuees and use of showers and telephones, the tribe said. Some campers had to leave their backpacks behind.

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    Travelers with plans to visit Havasupai Campground, which requires reservations, and Havasu Falls in the next seven to 10 days will not be allowed to make the trip. The tribe asks visitors not to call its tourism office because the phones are being used for emergency services.

    Travelers scheduled to visit when the canyon is closed will be given an option to rebook, Fink said. But details, including the timing of the rescheduled visit, are not yet available. 

    The tribe's website warns about the potential for flash flooding this time of year.

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    Although floods can occur any time of the year, the monsoon season occurs from late June to well into August, lending to a high risk of flash floods, the website said.

    "Flash flooding can occur without warning and without any rain where you are hiking," the website states. "If you hear the flood waters approaching or if you are caught in a rainstorm, climb to high ground immediately and wait until it clears.

    "Do not enter the narrow part of the canyon where you might not be able to climb the canyon walls in the event of an unexpected flood."

    Follow Dawn Gilbertson on Twitter: @DawnGilbertson

     

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