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4 empty homes destroyed by flooding in northern AZ

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FLAGSTAFF, Ariz. (AP) -- Flood waters on Tuesday ripped through a retirement community in northwestern Arizona, washing away four unoccupied homes and threatening to destroy others.

Meanwhile, evacuation orders were lifted in a small Utah town about 60 miles away after a dam feared close to breaking was declared safe.


But flood warnings and emergency declarations remained in place in some Utah, Nevada and Arizona counties, and more rain was expected overnight.

In Arizona, flood waters cut through a group of houses in the rural communities of Beaver Dam and Littlefield, sweeping away four homes after saturating the soil beneath them and causing them to collapse.

None of the wood-framed houses was inhabited, although a man was getting ready to move into one of them, said Jeff Hunt, Beaver Dam/Littlefield Fire District chief. The man and workers were putting finishing touches on the home but were able to gather their belongings before flood waters carried it away, Hunt said.

I think that through the night we'll lose potentially several more, especially if we get the flows increasing. If we get more velocity, it will pick them off one at a time.

–Jeff Hunt

Hunt said about a dozen other homes in the two communities, which share a zip code, were still in danger of being destroyed as flood waters seeped into the ground. About 200 feet of roadway was washed away.

"I think that through the night we'll lose potentially several more, especially if we get the flows increasing," he said. "If we get more velocity, it will pick them off one at a time."


Mohave County declared an emergency Tuesday because of flooding in the area -- which also was hit by flood waters in 2005, when some homes and a bridge over the Beaver Dam Wash were destroyed.

Authorities began warning area residents late Monday that they should evacuate if heavy runoff from nearby mountains continued. Few people initially did so, but more heeded the warning Tuesday.

In Utah, evacuation orders for the town of Rockville, population 247, were lifted Tuesday evening after authorities determined the Trees Ranch Dam on the Virgin River was stable. Suspected leaking from the earthen dam was actually just saturated soil, said Kirk Best, regional engineer with the Utah Division of Water Rights.

The potential of the dam breaking led officials to issue evacuation orders for all of Rockville earlier in the day.

Nearby Zion National Park also was evacuated and shut down. Park officials said in a news release that they evacuated an unspecified number of people, including guests staying at the Zion Lodge and campers in the park.

Daniel McArthur, mayor of St. George, Utah, declared a state of emergency for his city about 40 miles southwest of the park due to flooding. Food waters also wiped out one of two bridges to the southern Utah town of Gunlock, the Washington County sheriff's office said.

A flood warning was issued for Utah's Washington and Kane counties through Thursday, and the Virgin and Santa Clara rivers were expected to crest again Wednesday afternoon.

In southern Nevada, a state of emergency was ordered after rain-swollen creeks closed some roads in the Las Vegas area and snow disrupted electricity to about 300 customers on nearby Mount Charleston.

County crews were expected to work through the night to clear roads so workers could restore power in the mountain area buried under 2 feet of snow.

Threats of flooding across Las Vegas prompted Clark County Manager Virginia Valentine to issue the emergency declaration Tuesday afternoon. She urged visitors to stay away from Mount Charleston, a popular tourist destination, until the storm passed.

The National Weather Service said more bad weather was expected overnight.

"We're still going to have largespread areas of rain but also the chance of thunderstorms," said meteorologist Jim Harrison of Las Vegas weather bureau. "There's going to be additional flooding concerns then."

A northwestern Arizona weather station recorded at least 10 inches of rain Tuesday, while rainfall ranged from 10 to 14 inches in southwestern Utah, Harrison said.

In Beaver Dam and Littlefield, many residents placed sandbags around homes and built dirt berms to try to control the flood waters. Others gathered things out of their houses, in close view of the homes that were swept into the Beaver Dam Wash and likely ended up in Lake Mead in Nevada, Hunt said.

"That's kind of the mentality in the rural area here -- you build your own, you protect your own," Hunt said. "So they're doing their best."

One man with a history of heart problems went into cardiac arrest while working on a neighbor's home, but medical responders were able to control the situation and transported the man to the hospital.

Hunt said the man was in critical condition, but no other injuries were reported.


Associated Press writers Josh Loftin in Salt Lake City and Cristina Silva in Las Vegas contributed to this report.

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