PINETOP-LAKESIDE — A whopper of a storm hit Pinetop-Lakeside Thurday Aug. 1, causing flooding and widespread damage, prompting the town to pass an emergency resolution.
The storm started around 5:30 p.m. and continued for approximately 45 minutes. During that time a total of 4.8 inches of rain fell which caused extensive damage to private property and to many public facilities, streets and roads within the Town of Pinetop-Lakeside.
The storm occurred while the regular monthly meeting of the town council was underway. Some of the town council members were late to the meeting due to the storm. A flash flood warning came across phones and emails at 6:01 p.m. and 6:02 p.m., respectively. When the alert went off everyone at the meeting looked at their phones and then at each other. Little did they know what was going on outside at the time.
Culverts, which were not designed for this type of downpour, overflowed, blocking driveways and spreading debris. Hail the size of marbles covered the ground, turning it white. Woodland Road and south of Woodland Lake Road were totally flooded.
Crews worked throughout Thursday night scraping ice off the road with backhoes and unblocking driveways to get people back in their homes.
According to Dustin Whipple, head of the road crew, the hardest hit areas were Woodland Park, Woodland Village Mobile Home Park, The Woods at Pinetop, Woodland Hills, Summer Haven and Pinetop Hills. These were, however, not the only areas affected.
Local resident Dana Rodd Heck, who lives at The Woods, sent photos and a video to the Independent.
“We went out to eat about an hour after the storm,” she said.
What they encountered on the drive on Pine View Lane was a muddy river spilling debris across the road and city crews and police armed with a snowplow.
“They were watching the hillside which apparently was about to slide down,” she said. Many other residents posted videos and photos on Facebook of the ice and blocked culverts.
Town Manager Keith Johnson said residents he spoke with who have lived here all of their lives said they have never seen anything like this. Some reported that a storm in 2006 was also a bad one.
Patterson expressed concern with the overflowing of culverts with more rain in the forecast. He said 17 public works employees worked throughout the weekend and beyond, as well as enlisting the assistance of sub-contractors. He said some of the drains were completely full of debris and blocked by the ice.
Storm brings new,
For town officials, the storm was challenging and costly. An emergency meeting of the mayor and town council was held on Friday, August 2, at 3 p.m. for the purpose of passing a resolution declaring the threat of an emergency to town residents.
Not only must the town pay for the cost of the crews that worked through the night on Thursday and into the weekend to clear roads and culverts, but any damage caused to town infrastructure.
The resolution passed by the council allows the agencies to implement the town’s emergency plan which will remain in effect until further notice (the emergency plan can be found on the town’s website at www.pinetoplakesideaz.gov).
Pinetop-Lakeside Police Chief Dan Barnes mentioned that emergency funds were available through the Arizona Department of Environmental Management. Public Works Director Matt Patterson said these funds would help with overtime and that monies for the culverts and other work would have to be directed from some other fund because it is not available in his department budget.
Johnson said the drainage issue had been a longstanding one and Patterson said it is one of the areas they have on their to-do list but have not gotten to yet.
Council inquired as to the responsibility of the replacement or repair of culverts and Patterson advised that a policy was started at some point where the town agreed to bear the expense of putting in the culverts if a citizen purchased it.
“There is going to be a lot of culvert repair,” said Patterson.
Patterson also noted that Mountain Meadows Recreation Complex received quite a bit of damage.
“The well-house was completely flooded,” said Patterson, “and we are short on funds to pay for what we have to do. No way could we have ever prepared for this. The system was never designed to handle this type of water flow.”
After the meeting, Councilor Jim Snitzer mentioned that Rainbow Lake was up four to six inches and Walnut Creek almost overflowed.
Patterson said the public works crew worked tirelessly from the night of the storm through Saturday night and were able to get the water levels down. In a text message to the Independent, he said he told the crew to get some rest and they would “hit it full force on Monday.”
“It will take about three weeks for the clean up; that is, we are shooting for three weeks.”
Residents who have property damage from the storm should check with their insurance carrier to determine their coverage.