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AZ town deluged twice in one week

BY SUSAN KIM | Wenden, AZ | October 26, 2000

Residents in Wenden, AZ evacuated for the second time in less than a week on Saturday, when flash floodwaters submerged the

streets and poured into homes. All 1,200 residents were evacuated early Saturday but were allowed back in to survey damage by

Saturday afternoon.

In a nearby town, Aguila, population 400, three feet of water inundated some homes, according to town officials.

Wenden -- as well as some areas of Oklahoma -- was still reeling from fierce flash floods earlier this week. Wenden, 90 miles west

of Phoenix, was inundated Oct. 21 when floodwaters spilled over Centennial Wash, a normally dry river bed that flows with

water only when it rains. Several levies in the wash were broken, according to Arizona emergency management reports.

President Clinton declared La Paz and Maricopa counties federal disaster areas on Friday.

Some 200 structures -- including homes, businesses, and outbuildings -- were damaged in flash flooding in that area on Sunday,

with 50 damaged beyond repair, said Cliff Pearlberg, spokesperson for Arizona emergency management.

Harriet Kraker, a volunteer with the Christian Reformed World Relief Committee, said that voluntary organizations are ready to

help with cleanup after the threat of floods passes. "This town rests between two mountain ranges, and water just cascades down

off the mountains."

The National Guard is assisting state and federal officials with evacuations and the American Red Cross is tending to residents'

emergency needs. "We're not going to be able to enter the cleanup stage until it stops raining," said Kraker.

In Oklahoma, residents on Saturday were sandbagging to ward off flash flooding. "There are still evacuations taking place," said

Don Lynch, chief of operations for Oklahoma emergency management. "We got more storms Friday and another round today.

It's a flash flooding situation because the ground is saturated and it doesn't take much," he said.

Thunderstorms dumped three more inches of rain on already soaked areas Friday, spawning fast-moving floodwaters that

shifted mobile homes, washed away vehicles, and stranded people in their homes or in treetops.

The town of Apache was hardest hit, according to Albert Ashwood, director of Oklahoma emergency management. "Seventy

homes were damaged, and only about 10 percent of people have flood insurance," he said. "But it's hard to assess damages when

the event is still going on. We have flooding in southern Oklahoma today, and we're expecting heavy rains that could last

through the weekend."

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