40 Evacuated in Arizona Storm

More than three dozen people were evacuated from a community northeast of Phoenix on Saturday as a major winter storm prompted flash-flood watches to continue over much of Arizona.

Some 40 residents from two mobile home parks in Punkin Center (search), about 80 miles northeast of Phoenix, left their homes because of rising water from Tonto Creek, officials with Gila County Emergency Management (search) said.

People living east of Tonto Creek were stranded because of flooding at low water crossings, said Mariano Gonzales, Gila County Emergency Management deputy director.

Authorities also closed four highways near Globe (search) because of rock slides and floodwater. Department of Public Safety officials didn't know when the blocked portions of State Highways 188, 77, 88 and 177 would reopen.

Flash-flood watches remain in effect over much of Arizona as a major winter storm continues to move through the state. Heavy rain and snowmelt on Friday caused some rivers and streams throughout Arizona to get near flood-stage levels.

However, most creeks and rivers peaked by Saturday afternoon and started to decline, said Judy Kioski, a spokeswoman for the Arizona Division of Emergency Management.

Rising water in Yavapai and Pima counties was receding throughout several spots after reaching higher than normal levels.

Still, officials in Yavapai County reported some minor precautionary evacuations but didn't provide the number of evacuees.

Residents at a mobile home park in Camp Verde were urged to leave their homes Saturday as a precaution.

Two mobile home parks near the Agua Fria River and Black Canyon Creek in Black Canyon City were evacuated Friday night and early Saturday as a precaution. Some residents in Cornville near Oak Creek and Bridgeport near the Verde River were also asked to leave their homes as a precaution, said Nick Angiolillo, Yavapai County Emergency Management coordinator.

A flood warning was issued through Sunday morning for the Verde River and Sabino Creek. Flood warnings also were issued for Tonto Creek, Cave Creek and the Agua Fria River.

A flash-flood watch was in effect for parts of Maricopa, Gila and Yavapai counties.

Salt River Project increased releases from its reservoirs on the Verde River northeast of Phoenix to clear space for heavy runoff from the storm. SRP has been letting out water from Horseshoe and Bartlett dams since late December.

Because Verde River reservoirs are full essentially, any heavy runoff from the storm will pass through the system and down the Salt River.