Heavy flooding in the Tonto Basin leaves hundreds stranded for days

Heavy rain caused flooding in the Tonto Basin area on Sunday and families have been stuck there since then.
Published: Jan. 18, 2023 at 9:08 PM MST
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TONTO BASIN, AZ (3TV/CBS 5) — People are trapped on one side of Tonto Basin and may have to wait several more days before crossing and getting back home. This all started on Sunday with the heavy rain. Many people have been stuck from the flooding, longing to get home to their families.

Though frustrated, they’re trying to make the most of the situation until the flood subsides, saying this is, unfortunately, the norm in the Tonto Basin. “My mom is over there, alone. And her water heater went out and I can’t get home and fix it,” said Sean Mullen, who’s been stuck for several days.

The flooding has left an entire community stranded. “What’s it like being stuck with no clothes and nowhere to sleep and all that? You have to rent a hotel room and all that? It’s terrible,” Mullen said.

“In a 24 hour period it went from a little stream to a raging river a mile wide,” said Davie Nichols, who has been stuck since Sunday. We’re told when the Basin floods, water pours in at thousands of cubic feet per minute, leaving people stuck in a matter of hours. “The flooding is something you just deal with living here. You just stay away from the creek when it floods. It comes up fast and it goes down a little slower,” Nichols said.

Others say though it’s frustrating, the flooding isn’t a bother. It’s all part of the Tonto Basin experience. “Our son and daughter-in-law, they rent a home across the creek. Now they can’t cross the creek so they are in an RV in an RV park. Hopefully Friday they can get across the creek. We’ll see what happens,” Nichols said.

But those on the east side often go without essentials like doctors’ appointments or groceries. All grocery stores are on the west side. “If I lived here when I was younger I would start one on that side. We won’t go across that until the water is clear so you can see the bottom,” said John Annala, who has company here, all stranded.

The earliest the waters will be clear is Friday. Until then, the only way they can cross is by boat. Many people are hoping to have this problem resolved by a bridge currently being built, expected to be completed at the end of 2024.