HAVASU FALLS, Ariz. (CBS4) – Coloradans who were visiting the iconic Havasu Falls in Arizona, found themselves caught in the middle of a flash flood evacuation.
Jeff Hill and his friend were hiking and camping near the falls on Wednesday, when storms rolled through the region.
“Everything turned into insane downpour, (and) high wind,” Hill told CBS4’s Dillon Thomas. “We started noticing the water levels rising all around us.”
Recent monsoon storms caused a wave of precipitation to roll through the area, rising water levels in the canyon.
“Most the people had no idea about flash floods,” Hill said.
Within an hour of the arrival of heavy rain, water levels along the canyon were rising, according to Hill. Some bridges were washed out, while exit trails were blocked. Hill recalled crossing a bridge, which was nearly overwhelmed by the increased water flow.
“The water was just level with the wood planks,” Hill said.
Hill, and others, ran to alert other campers.
“We yelled at them, ‘You got to get out right now!’” Hill recalled.
Mary Barclay was one of those caught in the middle.
“I really didn’t know what to do,” Barclay said. “People’s things starting to float away. I was knee-deep in water, and realized how dangerous the situation was.”
Barclay said she quickly packed her belongings, and sought higher ground.
“We were trying to get away from the flood, and not be struck by lightning, or not be hit by boulders,” Barclay said.
Hill helped some people use a rope, in order to climb to higher ground.
“It was a pretty steep cliff, that we had to get 70 people up. And, a lot of people had no shoes, and never had climbed before,” Hill said.
Hundreds would spend the night in a community center, awaiting evacuation.
The next day, helicopters transported the stranded visitors back to the parking lots.
“We got air lifted out,” Hill said.
Now, back at their homes, several told CBS4 they were impressed on how well strangers came together to help others.
“Everyone pulled together. We worked together,” Hill said. “Everyone was willing to lend a hand to help each other out.”
Dillon Thomas is a reporter at CBS4 and a Colorado native. He believes everyone has a story, and would love to share yours! You can find more of his stories by following him on Twitter, @DillonMThomas.