1 dead, 5 rescued in AZ flash flood

August 26, 2008 11:03:47 AM PDT
A severe thunderstorm filled a normally dry desert wash with a flash flood that swamped two vehicles on a state highway, killing one woman, authorities said Tuesday.Five other people were rescued.

Water filled the wash 40 to 50 yards across and as much as 6 feet deep, La Paz County Sheriff's Lt. Glenn Gilbert said.

The flood late Monday in western Arizona caught a recreational vehicle and a small sedan in which five women were riding on Arizona Route 72, Gilbert said.

Deputies and firefighters found two women atop the car and one person in the RV in the middle of a tributary to the Bouse Wash, which feeds into the Colorado River below Parker, about 20 miles to the northwest.

Deputies and a Federal Express driver who joined the rescue effort found one woman about a half-mile downstream and another was found about a half-mile farther. They suffered only minor injuries.

Deputies and Marines aboard a search-and-rescue helicopter from the Marine Corps Air Station Yuma spotted the dead woman's body about six miles downstream, Gilbert said.

The area was hit by 3 to 4 inches of rain in just over four hours late Monday, with rain falling in some spots at a rate of 2 to 3 inches per hour, said Mike McLane, a meteorologist at the National Weather Service in Phoenix. Flooding was reported in other areas of La Paz County, Gilbert said.

Southeast of Phoenix, about 100 miles away, a thunderstorm with wind gusting to nearly 75 mph damaged 10 planes at Chandler Municipal Airport, toppled trees and flooded streets. Sporadic power outages were reported.