Storms cause floods in Arizona, Nevada

In Americas, Floods & Storms, News Headlines

PHOENIX – Strong storms on Tuesday pounded portions of the West, dropping record-setting rain in northern Nevada, flooding roads and disrupting flights in Phoenix, and dumping enough snow at the top of the Sierra to close a mountain highway pass.

Meanwhile, a lightning strike in Utah left two teenage boys hospitalized in critical condition.

In Phoenix, no flights arrived or left Sky Harbor International Airport for about a half-hour because of winds as strong as 70 mph, lightning, golf ball-sized hail and rain. Airport spokeswoman Deborah Ostreicher said some flights were diverted but most circled the airport, waiting for the weather to clear.

Earlier in the day, the storm halted all flights for nearly an hour and delayed many more as planes backed up on runways.

Mesa fire Capt. Forrest Smith said a microburst downed 19 power poles, at least three of which landed on homes. In all, 38 homes were damaged by the storm, 12 severely, and about 100 people were displaced, Smith said.

At least 10,000 people were without power throughout metro Phoenix.

The Arizona Department of Public safety said the storm caused “too many accidents to count,” including a single-vehicle wreck on a suburban freeway that killed one man.

A power line fell across busy Interstate 17 in central Phoenix, shutting down traffic in both directions. No one was hurt. Flooding swamped freeways throughout the area, with water up to 2 feet deep on parts of I-17.

In southwestern Utah, two teenage boys were struck by lightning shortly before 3 p.m. Tuesday outside their Santa Clara high school, said Brad Ferguson, Washington County school district spokesman.

The boys, Christopher “Dane” Zdunich and Alex Lambson, both suffered life-threatening injuries and were flown to University Medical Center in Las Vegas, Ferguson said.

In Nevada, the National Weather Service extended a winter weather advisory through late Tuesday afternoon for Reno, Tahoe and Carson City. The same weather system has caused flooding around Las Vegas. It was expected to linger in the region through the middle of the week.

Temperatures were in the upper 40s in Reno at midday Tuesday after setting record highs in the mid-90s a week ago.

More than an inch of rain (1.09) fell at Reno-Tahoe International Airport on Monday, shattering the old record of 0.23 set in 1994.

Snow forced the closure of California Highway 89 at Monitor Pass south of Lake Tahoe on Tuesday. Chains were required on the Mount Rose Highway connecting Reno to Incline Village.

Another 2 to 4 inches of snow was expected above 8,000 feet in the Sierra, where 1 to 3 inches had been recorded by Tuesday morning.

Clay Morgan, a weather service meteorologist in Las Vegas, said the precipitation was caused by a low-pressure system from the Gulf of Alaska.

“We’re probably looking at chances of showers and thunderstorms at least through Thursday,” Morgan said.

Rainfall at the Lake Mead National Recreation Area, including Boulder Beach and Callville Bay, caused flash flooding that closed several roads, the National Park Service said. There also were reports of flooding in northeast Clark County near Moapa and Overton.

Elsewhere, concerns about rough weather postponed the America’s Challenge gas balloon race in New Mexico, which initially was scheduled for Tuesday. The race is now slated to lift off Thursday night.

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