TEMPE, AZ (Arizona's Weather Authority) -- January 1993 in the Valley was amazing if you like rain. It rained on 14 consecutive days in Phoenix -- Jan. 5-18. An incredible 5.12 inches fell during those 14 days. It also was snowing like crazy in the mountains. The reservoirs filled up and Salt River Project had to start releasing water down the river channel. No, there was no Tempe Town Lake to worry about then. (It wasn't built until 1997.)

The trouble was, construction of a new (the current) Mill Avenue Bridge had just started months earlier. Crews had framed the bridge about halfway across and poured some moorings. On the morning of Jan. 9, a Friday, I was sent over to the river, now raging at 60,000 cubic feet per second (nearly 450,000 gallons per second), to do a story. One of the first people I talked to was a foreman on the bridge construction. He said, "You know, this construction is only rated for 40,000 CFS of water. And we never thought we'd see that."

"You mean?" I said. "Yes," he answered.

The bridge was coming down.

That was a story. In addition to the crew I was with, we sent an extra photographer to the area and dispatched NewsChopper 3 to take aerial shots. If that bridge was coming down, we were going to get it on video.

It took longer than we thought. Folks in the newsroom were starting to wonder whom I had been talking to as the bridge stood strong through the afternoon. Then, just as we were finishing the 5 p.m. live report, the bridge still standing, we heard the unmistakable sound of big pieces of wood snapping. Crack. Crack. Crack. Zoom to the bridge. And, yes, we've got the aerial shots, as well.

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So, that was fun from an observer's perspective, but the flooding caused lots of problems. Eventually, the flow in the Salt River at the bridge location peaked at 106,000 CFS and created many more issues for communities downstream.

Props to super editor Brett Haehl who found all this great old video. And thanks to Randy Cerveny, one of the meteorology professors at Arizona State University. He helped me fill three hours of TV the next morning from the same spot, in the rain. We still laugh about that today because neither of us can remember what we would have talked about for so long.

They rebuilt the Mill Avenue Bridge without further weather incidents. It opened on Feb. 26, 1994. Yeah, Brett found that video, too.

3TV Chief Meteorologist Royal Norman always has his eye on the radar and how weather conditions might affect the people of Arizona.  He also loves telling those quintessential stories that are uniquely Arizona. With 35 years of experience forecasting weather and his vast knowledge of Arizona and its micro climates, Royal is an Arizona Weather Authority. 

Copyright 2020 KPHO/KTVK (KPHO Broadcasting Corporation). All rights reserved.


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