Friday, September 19, 2014

Portal After Storm Odile

For friends of Portal everywhere, the bottom line is that everyone is okay, after the remnants of Hurricane Odile targeted the Chiricahua Mountains and the sister villages of Portal, Arizona, and Rodeo, New Mexico. At our home, we received 5.29" of rain over a four-day period, nearly all of it falling on Wednesday night. (Contrast that with 11" in an hour at Cabo San Lucas, where the hurricane made landfall!)

We woke yesterday morning to a roaring creek in our normally-dry arroyo, and found ourselves homebound, until the flash flood went down.

Flashing arroyo cuts across our road
(Photos by Narca)

This morning, we joined neighbors Mark and Kathy Luckadoo to move rocks from the road down at the crossing, rake it, and smooth it until we could again drive through.

Mark, Kathy, and Alan at work on the crossing

Test run over the crossing––yes!

Then Alan and I went on a fact-finding foray.

This video taken yesterday showed Cave Creek flowing over the Portal Bridge. By today, the water had dropped below the bridge.

Portal Bridge, with some damage

Water level on Friday at the Portal Bridge

We were relieved to learn that our friends and neighbors appear all accounted for. Yes, everyone, the three houses below the research station, but above the South Fork confluence, all survived. Water ran over portions of the property, but spared the houses.  Phone service and power lines are all down for much of the canyon, including parts of Portal.

The American Museum of Natural History's Southwest Research Station also survived, though I don't know the extent of the damage. Dawn Wilson, SWRS director, was able to come out today, in search of generators. All I've been told is that about 35 people are at the station, without drinking water. Included are about 20 students from Wales. The station has begun to evacuate their guests.

The major damage is to the area of the canyon below the confluence of South Fork and the main fork of Cave Creek, where the two vastly swollen streams converged. Flooding was definitely a problem above that confluence also, for these three homes and for the research station, but at least those places weren't swept away.

The bridges are intact, and today an engineer is evaluating their integrity for the US Forest Service.

Road closure into Cave Creek Canyon

Right now the road into Cave Creek Canyon is closed at the Visitor Information Center. Above the VIC, near the lower campgrounds where the road splits and goes on both sides of an island of trees, the righthand road has been completely washed away. The left is still passable. So repair to infrastructure, mainly to the road, will no doubt keep the canyon closed for a while, to all but the most essential traffic. Here is a link to photos of the damage above the road closure.

Folks have been concerned enough for Linda Jakse that I should say specifically––she's okay. We were told that the water rose above their patio to the back door, but no further. When it receded, the patio had even survived. The future gatherings that she and Paul will no doubt host on that patio are not in jeopardy.

A number of homes literally became islands in the storm, yet they all emerged intact, or mostly so. Peter and Mary Sue Waser have impressive video of the raging Cave Creek flowing around their entire home, but I'm not able to find it online. Here is a very similar video by Deborah Johnson. Amazingly, only a little water entered their utility room. Other creekside homes, including Gloria's, Howard and Carol's, Eskild and Susan's, Richard and Rose Ann's, Marge Fagan's, are all okay, although some outbuildings and wells are damaged. I haven't heard how Dinah's home fared, other than rumor that when last seen, it was high and dry.

Peter and Mary Sue's home became an island in the stream.

From the Wasers' home, the river flowed down the main street of Portal, in front of the library and post office, before channeling back into the main creek bed.

The main street in Portal, which became a river for awhile

Here is Laura Mullen's video of water flowing down the main street! (The same area is shown in Deborah Johnson's video above.) The people in the video are standing on the rock wall you see in the distance in this photo.

Cave Creek Ranch suffered damage to creekside cabins. This video taken at the lodge gives you some idea of the power of the raging creek.

In some places, Cave Creek now flows down a new primary watercourse.

Across from the visitor center, Cave Creek has a new channel

Let's correct some misinformation reported by the sheriff's office and by national television: Gloria, our elder friend––and Portal's Honorary Mayor!––who was rescued from her home after Howard checked on her, was not up to her knees in water inside her home! Her situation was similar to the Wasers'. Water flowed all around her house but only a tiny bit got inside. However, her rescuers had to carry her through knee-deep water to retrieve her. She's fine now.

The Cochise County sheriff checked on people around Portal, to make sure everyone was accounted for. We do appreciate all the help from the sheriff's deputies, the Forest Service, the Border Patrol, and the county road folks, in dealing with the storm and its aftermath. Thank you!!

My information for Rodeo and the San Simon Valley is much sketchier. It did appear for awhile, however, that the ancient Pleistocene lake might reestablish itself to the north of Rodeo. The sheriff's Facebook page has a photo from State Line Road, along the AZ-NM border. Next, our valley gets to remember that it is, actually, a semidesert grassland.

We all appreciate your concern and well-wishes. We're drying out now! And the butterflies are out in force. Hummingbirds are still swarming, Violet-green Swallows and Swainson's Hawks are still migrating.

Bordered Patch on sunflowers at the Visitor Information Center

1 comment:

  1. Narca, thanks for sharing all of this information!