PHOENIX – Intense storms swept through the Southwest on Saturday, snapping trees and shrouding metropolitan Phoenix in cascading showers while also bringing flooding to parts of Nevada.
The skies above downtown Phoenix were completely gray in the afternoon as strong winds, thunder and rain hit the region. The outside visibility of buildings was almost entirely obscured by rain and clouds.
The storm forced authorities to close a section of Interstate 17 for more than hour due to flooding. Flight departures and landings resumed about 3:30 p.m. after they were halted for an hour at Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport. But airport spokeswoman Julie Rodriguez said delays are expected into the evening. More than 40 flights scheduled to land in Phoenix were diverted to other airports, she said.
"The wind caused some damage to the roof of Terminal 2 in the baggage claim area and in some of the gate areas. However, all three terminals at Sky Harbor are operational," Rodriguez said in a statement.
Branches and debris littered streets around the city and at least one traffic light was knocked over. Some trees were toppled by the ensuing wind. The Salt River Project utility said that about 31,000 customers were without power as of Saturday afternoon.
Most of the outages were in west Phoenix and suburbs west of Phoenix, with smaller clusters reported in Scottsdale, Mesa and Tempe. Utility officials estimated that power would be restored sometime Saturday afternoon.
SRP spokeswoman Patty Garcia-Likens said the utility was giving ice away to affected customers at two Quick Trip locations.
Phoenix Fire Capt. Benjamin Santillan said firefighters were helping to locate a hiker in south Phoenix stranded by a washed away trail. The woman was hiking with her dog when the rain hit. Santillan said she was able to find her way to a road and crews were using her cellphone signal to find her.
Crews, meanwhile, have been responding to multiple calls around the city of trees falling on vehicles and small electrical-related fires.
National Weather Service meteorologist Valerie Meyers said a record-breaking 1.6 inches of rain has been reported so far. That total surpassed the 1.46 inches reported on this date in 1903. While the storm was starting to clear out in some parts of the city, there would still be lingering showers and isolated thunderstorms into the evening east of Phoenix, Meyers said.
The weather was a mix of Phoenix's first fall storm and leftover monsoon moisture, National Weather Service meteorologist Marvin Percha said.
In southeast Nevada's rural Moapa Valley, heavy rains brought flooding but authorities say that despite a river cresting at a record high, the damage wasn't as bad as what was caused by high waters in the area earlier in the month.
Clark County Deputy Fire Chief Jon Klassen said the only evacuations occurred in the tiny town of Warm Springs, but he didn't know how many people or homes were affected. Roads to the town were flooded and inaccessible.
David Aguilar said an inch of silt came into his Moapa Valley house along the Muddy River.
"All of a sudden, I heard the sound of water," he told the Las Vegas Review-Journal, adding a water pipe also broke, complicating cleanup efforts.
Other residents say the flood left mud and debris in yards, inundated sheds and other exterior buildings and damaged vehicles.
There were also reports of storm problems in Las Vegas, as well as a power outage in Henderson.
Las Vegas Fire and Rescue spokesman Tim Szymanski said a townhouse was heavily damaged after being hit by lightning, but no one was hurt. He said firefighters also responded to two calls of minor flooding, one at a residence and another at a business.
Authorities responded to cars stuck on Interstate 15, but no one was trapped and the cars were unoccupied, Klassen said.
Interstate 15 just south of Mesquite reopened after flooding closed it in both directions Saturday morning, according to the Nevada Department of Transportation. But southbound travel was reduced to one lane.
In northern Arizona, Flagstaff residents also saw showers, thunder and lightning Saturday. More than an inch of rain fell in isolated areas south of Prescott by the afternoon, meteorologist Megan Schwitzer said. The Weather Service also said that nickel-sized hail was reported near Yarnell.