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Navajo Rez Flood Update
September 16, 2013 Professional Journal

Navajo Nation Police responding to flooding at Navajo Technical University in Crownpoint, N.M., on Sept. 13, 2013. Courtesy photo.

Navajo Nation Police responding to flooding at Navajo Technical University in Crownpoint, N.M., on Sept. 13, 2013. Courtesy photo.

Community residents of Lake Valley, N.M., a small remote Navajo Reservation community near Chaco Canyon, NM, were notified this evening that the main highway near their area was being shut down because of dangerous road conditions caused by flash floods.

NM highway 371 runs north and south and extends from Interstate 40 to Farmington, NM.

When US Route 491, which runs north and south from Interstate 40 near Gallup, NM, to Colorado and Utah, was closed September 13, because of flooding and flash floods, traffic was re-routed to NM highway 371.

U.S. Route 491 was closed because of flooding near Naschitti, N.M., on Sept. 13, 2013. Courtesy photo.

U.S. Route 491 was closed because of flooding near Naschitti, N.M., on Sept. 13, 2013. Courtesy photo.

Today public schools in the Crownpoint area were closed because of the flooding from torrential rains that started on September 13. School officials announced today that classes will resume tomorrow.

Navajo Technical University President Elmer Guy was forced to cancel classes at the main campus and Chinle Branch today but classes will resume tomorrow.

On September 13, flood waters from two days of rain inundated NU’s man campus in Crownpoint, N.M., and its branch campus in Chinle.

According to a press release from NU Crownpoint campus, flood waters hit the campus about 1 pm on September 13, and engulfed several vehicles. The Crownpoint Fire Department and Navajo Nation Police provided emergency assistance.

University students and staff from construction technology, the Gaming Club, Computer Club, Wrestling Club, Information Technology department, security, hospitality services, transportation services, counseling department, veterinary and extension services, maintenance department and hundreds of other first responders stepped forward without hesitation to bag sand and set up barriers, which limited flood damage.

Sandbags made and placed by Navajo Technical University staff and students reduced flood damage to some campus building in Crownpoint, NM, on Sept. 13, 2013. Courtesy photo

Sandbags made and placed by Navajo Technical University staff and students reduced flood damage to some campus building in Crownpoint, NM, on Sept. 13, 2013. Courtesy photo

Students and staff continued working today as flash flood warnings continued for Crownpoint. The weather forecast for the Crownpoint area is rain today, Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday.

Flood waters on September 13 and 14 rushed into the university’s admissions building, several administrative offices, classrooms and six family housing units. On September 14, residents of the university’s family units were evacuated to the university’s hospitality building, which was also designated as a community shelter.

Volunteers are needed to help the Crownpoint community with sandbags and cleanup. Volunteers should contact Sonlatsa Jim-Martin with the Navajo Nation Division of Health at 928-871-6968.

On Monday, risk management shut down three campus buildings. The buildings are admissions, student services and the cafeteria. The university’s nursing classes have been moved to the Crownpoint Dine’ College campus.

University students are advised to contact their advisors for more information. And volunteers that want to help Navajo Technical University should contact Byron Charlee at 505-879-5630.

The fast moving flood waters also moved through the entire town of Crownpoint. Flooding lasted for about 30 minutes.

A small dam that is located close to Crownpoint was on the brink of breaking on September 13 but tribal emergency management workers were able to prevent that disaster.

Navajo Nation President Ben Shelly stated in a press release late September 13, “Though we are thankful for the rain we have received, I want our people to know that the Navajo Nation programs and departments are responding to calls regarding flash flooding. Please be careful and don’t drive or cross flooded roadways.”

Executive Office Communications Director Erny Zah reported that about 60 communities from across the reservation have requested assistance from the Navajo Department of Emergency Management for flood damages since July. Emergency assistance has involved road washouts, road closures, rescue operations, shelter for flood victims and road clearances.

Shelly declared a state of emergency in August because of flooding and recent flooding has prompted him to update his July emergency declaration.

Zah stated that since September 9, about 50 reservation communities in Arizona, New Mexico and Utah have called for emergency support.

Zah reported that Chinle, Ariz., which is located near Canyon De Chelly and in the central portion of the reservation, was hit the hardest by flooding. Twenty-two people were evacuated from their homes.

And 40 people were evacuated from the communities of Many Farms, Ariz., and Rock Point, Ariz., which are downstream from Chinle. In Tonalea, Ariz., flooding damaged 2o homes.

Emergency Management Director Rose Whitehair urged reservation residents and visitors to be alert to their surroundings. “Though it might not be raining in your area, it can be raining in areas upstream,” Whitehair advised.

She added that it is difficult to predict what areas of reservation would experience flash flooding because most of the flooding occurs after short bursts of intense rain. “And with long term drought, the ground is hard so there is nowhere for the water to go,” she emphasized.

Zah stated that county and state emergency departments are working with the tribal emergency management department, the Red Cross, the Hopi Tribe and the U.S. Bureau of Indian Affairs.

The Navajo Reservation, which is about 30,000 square miles, is located in northern Arizona, eastern NM and southeastern Utah.

According to local news reports, NM Gov. Susana Martinez declared a state of emergency on September 13, which provided about $750,000 to local governments for flood damage to infrastructure.

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