Major flooding in Tusayan and Grand Canyon damages several homes, businesses

There's major flooding in Tusayan, but the National Park Service says the Highway 64 south entrance into the Grand Canyon has reopened Tuesday night.

Tusayan is just outside the park's entrance.

People in the area say they've received emergency alerts on their phones, telling people in Tusayan and Grand Canyon Village to shelter in place.

Residents of Tusayan were advised to boil their drinking water as the groundwater may have been impacted by Tuesday's flooding. Tusayan Public Water System has since confirmed its operations were not affected by the flooding. Coconino County Emergency Management is monitoring the situation and sending resources to help out.

"Due to a reported two to three inches of rainfall in a short amount of time this afternoon, water up to three feet in depth has reached State Route 64 and most of the gateway community," Coconino County said in a news release.

There are advisories if you need to travel in the area.

"All unnecessary travel to and from the South Rim of Grand Canyon National Park is not recommended. The Arizona Department of Transportation (ADOT) has closed State Route 64 south of Tusayan, all traffic from inside the National Park is being routed east on SR64 through Cameron," the county said previously, but the road has reopened.

At 9 p.m. on Tuesday, the Coconino County Sheriff's Office gave the following update:

"Approximately 70 students from the Grand Canyon Unified School District are sheltering on school property and are being returned home. No injuries have been reported at this time and Highway 64 has been cleared and is safe to travel at this time with limited access. The students from the Grand Canyon Unified School District are being reunited with their families. Crews will continue
through the evening clearing and assessing any possible damage caused by the flooding."

More than a hundred residents and guests were displaced and relocated to wait out the flooding, CCSO says.

Students sheltered in place

"We were notified a little later by my manager on the seriousness of the situation. When I went online, and I saw on Facebook all the pictures and posts and videos on the flooding, which is about a mile from where we are," says Jimelia Talasyousiea. She lives in Tusayan.

Debris, construction equipment, cars and some homes were destroyed by the constant rainfall.

"There's a lot of debris that has floated into the road. I saw videos of a dumpster going into the road, and they are also rebuilding and remodeling the McDonald's we have right down the street. I think a lot of their equipment got into the street area as well," she said.

A Grand Canyon School mother got an email from the district updating parents throughout the evening as students needed to shelter in place.

"I was just concerned that they are going to be home a little later. I know they are going to be safe inside the school because we have great staff at the school to make sure everyone is safe and protected," the mother said.

Although the flooding caused a delay in seeing her three kids, she's looking at the positives.

"It's definitely done some damage today due to the moisture we've had over the past few days," she said. "We've been needing this storm because of the drought we have over the past few years."

‘We never experienced even a quarter of the flood that we had’

On Wednesday, heavy rains and floodwaters left a muddy mess in the small community of Tusayan.

Residents and tourists were caught off guard Tuesday by the intense flooding. The next day, crews cleaned up roads and assessed the damages as several homes and a few businesses were impacted by the floodwaters

"You always hear about the 100-year flood event. This was beyond that, beyond anything that we’ve seen here in this area," said Andy Bertelsen, Coconino County deputy manager. "First order of business, we clean up the public infrastructure. Now, we’re out in daylight doing the damage assessments and just determining what infrastructure was damaged."

A portion of the main road, Highway 64, was submerged in several feet of water Tuesday night with tourists stuck on the north side of the highway unable to leave Grand Canyon National Park.

Others were stuck on the south side of the flood, unable to enter the park. Hotels in the area were also impacted.

"Some cancelations and people who couldn’t get here last night, so I had some late arrivals for today," said Steven Ayres, Canyon Plaza Hotel supervisor.

County officials estimate floodwaters seriously damaged around a half dozen homes, several businesses, and a housing complex

"Never. We never experienced even a quarter of the flood that we had yesterday. It was quite the event. A lot of people thought it was a waterline break. It wasn’t. It was a big storm that was coming down the Coconino Wash," Clarinda Vail, Mayor of Tusayan said.

Coconino County and Tusayan city officials are expected to issue an emergency proclamation.

You can sign up for emergency alerts from Coconino County here.

You can see more updates from Grand Canyon here.

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Photo from Roman Evans

Map of the area: