SUPERIOR, Ariz. - The U.S. 60 in east-central Arizona has been reopened after storm damage caused an extended closure of a 17.5-mile (28-kilometer) stretch of the highway between Superior and Miami, officials said Thursday.
The closure spanned mileposts 226-243 and was "due to standing water and storm debris on the roadway," the Arizona Department of Transportation said.
The department said the needed work was done around the clock and required an estimated 300 truckloads of boulders to shore up the highway so it could safely reopen to traffic.
Although the highway is back open, ADOT warns that there will still be delays in the coming weeks for up to an hour due to long-term repairs.
Long detour creates headaches for drivers
While the highway was closed, a detour in place -- which spanned 70 miles from State Route 77 through State Route 177 -- was one big headache for many east of the Valley, and that was the case for Brian Pretty who was on his way to work to Pinto Valley from Florence.
"They weren’t letting anybody through eastbound," he said, adding, "They had it blocked off 60 east just the other side of Superior."
A one-hour commute turned into two.
"It was close to an hour that I was sitting just on the other side of Superior," he said.
Krystle Mitchell works at a restaurant by the closure in Superior said some customers were disappointed about the big detour.
"A lot of them are upset that it’s not just a straight shot home," she said, adding, "It’s like an hour and a half to go around instead of a 25-minute drive."
Garin Groff with ADOT said early Wednesday morning heavy rain caused a mudslide, washing away the roadside in a stretch of the highway.
"There is a huge embankment that got washed away and crews are going to be working 24 hours a day for at least several days," he said.
Numerous storm cells paraded across the region early Wednesday, prompting the National Weather Service to issue flood advisories in areas near Casa Grande, Fountain Hills, Maricopa, Apache Junction and Coolidge.
In Tucson, crews rescued three people from a vehicle in a runoff-swollen wash on Tuesday as monsoon thunderstorms caused scattered flash flooding in southeastern Arizona.
"Be aware that areas of flooding may cause significant inconvenience. Use extreme caution on roads. Do not walk or drive through flooded streets or around barricades," one advisory stated.
The Associated Press (AP) contributed to this report.
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Rain/flood safety tips
The American Red Cross' tips for heavy rain situations and flood safety:
- Turnaround don’t drown! If you must drive and you encounter a flooded roadway, turn around and go another way.
- If you are caught on a flooded road and waters are rising rapidly around you, get out of the car quickly and move to higher ground.
- Tune in to your local radio, NOAA radio, or news channels for the latest updates.
- If your neighborhood is prone to flooding, be prepared to evacuate quickly.
- Follow evacuation orders and do not attempt to return until officials say it is safe.
- If power lines are down, do not step in puddles or standing water.
- If power is out, use a flashlight. Do not use any open flame as alternate lighting.
Preparing for a severe thunderstorm
The American Red Cross' tips for preparing for a severe thunderstorm:
- Put together an emergency kit.
- Know your community’s evacuation plan.
- Create a household disaster plan and practice it.
- Purchase a battery-powered or hand-crank radio
- Discuss thunderstorm safety with members of your household. Be aware that a thunderstorm could produce flooding.
- Pick a safe place in your home for household members to gather during a thunderstorm. This should be a place where there are no windows, skylights, or glass doors, which could be broken by strong winds or hail and cause damage or injury.
Be prepared and stay safe during the monsoon
"Most Valley residents know how quickly and furiously storms can move in and out, bringing strong winds, dust, rain, and flash flooding. These storms can cause interruptions in services, such as water, power, and gas," stated Captain Ashley Losch of the Glendale Fire Department.
GFD reminds residents of ways they can be prepared and stay safe:
- Have flashlights with extra batteries on hand.
- Have food that can be prepared without the need for cooking or refrigeration.
- Have at least one gallon of clean water for each person in the household.
- Have backup power for anyone requiring power for a medical device.
- Have backup power for cell phones that do not require charging.
- Have a first aid kit ready and accessible.
- Never drive into areas with flowing water; it takes less than 10 inches to wash a car away.
- Avoid flooded areas, such as washes.
- If waters are rising, seek higher ground.
- Do not approach downed power lines, the ground can be energized for up to 200 feet.
- Keep pets indoors during storms.