Friday’s monsoon storm fizzles after wreaking heavy damage

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Posted: Tuesday, August 21, 2012 8:31 am

Back East, students sometimes catch a break with snow days. But in Nogales, school officials sent students home early Friday in the wake of a deluge that dumped up to 4.02 inches of rain between 6 a.m. and 10 a.m., and amid fears of continuing monsoon storms that never materialized.

School officials said it was difficult for the buses and parents who drive their children to school to access some of the campuses, resulting in high absenteeism.

At the Nogales Police Department, an incident command headquarters was established Friday morning. “We’re preparing for the worst,” Acting Police Chief Roy Bermudez said at the time. “While the rains are subsiding right now, another system is expected to move in at about 11 a.m.”

However, aside from persistent drizzles the rest of the day and into the evening, the worst of the storms had passed.

Several streets were closed due to early morning flooding, including North Grand Avenue between Baffert Street and the Valle Verde subdivision, where water had crested above the Nogales Wash and Union Pacific railroad tracks. Thelma and Beck streets became virtual arroyos as water drained from the canyons east of Nogales. Both streets were barricaded, as was Morley Avenue between Bankard Avenue and State Route 82.

At about mid-morning, U.S. Border Patrol agents carried an elderly woman from a two-bedroom home on Thelma Street where the water was knee-high inside the home after culverts in the area were overwhelmed.

Border Patrol agents also rescued a woman and her two teenage boys at about 8 a.m. after the mini-van they were in got caught in a current that stranded them in about three feet of water in an area off SR 82 near the Holbrook Bridge.

“Is there anyone in the vehicle,” an agent asked this reporter. Just then he noticed the brake lights in the stranded vehicle were turning on and off. Other agents arrived, quickly assessed the situation and then rushed to pull the occupants out through the driver’s window.

Downtown at the corner of East Street and Nelson Avenue, a chivalrous city sanitation department worker hopped off the garbage truck to help a woman get her child, whom she was pushing in a stroller across the street in rushing floodwater.

The drenched ground on Edwards Street caused a huge tree to slowly list, uproot and finally collapse on top of a home causing thousands of dollars in damage. Nobody was injured.

Prior to Friday’s storm, totals for the 2012 monsoon season in Santa Cruz County ranged from a low of 4.02 inches at Red Mountain south of Patagonia, to a high of 13.82 inches at the intersection of I-19 and Western Avenue in Nogales, said John Hays, director of the Santa Cruz County Flood Control District.

“All four gauges in the city registered more than 10.5 inches of rain for this monsoon,” Hays said. “And we still have a month to a month-and-a-half to go.”

Then came Friday’s deluge.

“Since about 6 a.m. this morning,” Hays posted on the NI’s Facebook page on Friday, “one of our … gauges reported (up to) 4.02 inches of rainfall, as of 10 a.m., with 2.68 inches of that (falling) between 7 a.m. and 8 a.m.”

On Monday, Hays updated the flood district’s Facebook page with cumulative totals for the monsoon season from June 23 through midnight, Aug. 19, 2012. Three gauges in Nogales had already surpassed the estimated monsoon average of 11 inches: The county yard on Hohokham Drive ( 16.22 inches); I-19 and Western Avenue (15.55 inches); and the Mariposa Port of Entry (11.61 inches).

See more rainfall totals at