Rain runoff leads to fatal collision, dam danger in Arizona

PHOENIX — The impact of remnants from Tropical Storm Rosa was still rippling across Arizona Thursday as a collision on a washed out highway near the Grand Canyon left one person dead and, hundreds of miles away, the potential of a breach at a dam remained at risk of inundating a small Native American village near the U.S.-Mexico border.

While the water level at a lake swollen by runoff from heavy rain had receded somewhat, the damaged earthen dam could still fail to shield the village of Ali Chuk on the Tohono O‘odham Nation, tribal officials said in a statement late Wednesday.

With more rain expected at the end of the week, the tribe plans to assemble a team of engineers to inspect the structural integrity of Menagers Dam.

The dam suffered “some erosional damage” when it was overtopped by water as the lake behind it grew in size because of heavy rains that started Tuesday, the National Weather Service said in a statement extending a flash flood warning until Thursday afternoon for Ali Chuk.

Most of Ali Chuk‘s more than 100 residents have been evacuated or left on their own but tribal officials said that a few refused to leave. The smaller Kohatk Village in Pinal County was also forced to evacuate more than 30 residents. All of the evacuees are receiving assistance from the American Red Cross and other volunteers, tribal chairman Edward Manuel said.

In northern Arizona, a completely washed out part of a major highway was closed Thursday after a deadly collision. Arizona Department Public Safety troopers responded to the scene late Wednesday night and discovered a collapsed section of U.S. 89 near the community of Cameron.

The agency said a 26-year-old woman from France had just crossed the collapsed section as it started to give way. According to troopers, she then got out to inspect the damage to her car. That‘s when a Lakeside, Arizona, driver crossed the collapsed section and lost control of his pickup truck, hitting the woman.

She died at the scene. Her two passengers were treated at a hospital and released. The other driver and his passenger were treated at the scene.

The northbound lanes of U.S. 89 were closed in Cameron and southbound lanes were closed at a highway junction north of Cameron, the Arizona Department of Transportation said in a statement.

Cameron is 52 miles (84 kilometers) north of Flagstaff.

The closure is expected to last several days as repairs are made to the 30-foot (9-meter) section, transportation officials said. Drivers will have to take a detour that will add more than 100 miles (161 kilometers) to commutes from Flagstaff to larger communities in northern Arizona, the department said. That highway stretch, which goes through several Navajo communities, is the most direct route to the Grand Canyon‘s North Rim and Lake Powell.


Associated Press writer Felicia Fonseca contributed to this report from Flagstaff.