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AAA  Aug. 19, 2014 2:07 PM ET
Floods force interstate closure north of Phoenix
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(AP) — Flooding from heavy monsoon season rains in the Phoenix area forced authorities on Tuesday to close several major roads, including a portion of Interstate 17, while elsewhere firefighters rescued multiple motorists from vehicles trapped by fast-moving water.

The National Weather Service issued a flash flood warning for much of the metro area and said up to 2 inches of rain fell in some spots in about an hour Tuesday morning.

Dramatic aerial television footage showed a river of muddy water rushing down I-17 about 25 miles north of Phoenix as motorists worked to move into other lanes to avoid the deluge.

The Arizona Department of Public Safety has since closed the interstate in that location and is redirecting traffic into the southbound lanes back toward Phoenix.

Officials said it's unclear when the highway will reopen, but that rains have subsided and floodwaters are beginning to recede.

The Arizona Department of Transportation will soon begin working to clear the road of mud and debris to allow authorities to reopen a lane at a time hopefully by the afternoon, DPS spokesman Bart Graves said.

"Earlier we were very concerned that it was moving so fast that it would take over I-17 completely both northbound and southbound," Graves said. "But it didn't, so now ADOT is going to have to sweep that water out of there, which is going to be a long, arduous project."

Rocks also washed down a hillside onto I-17 about 60 miles north of Phoenix, causing several vehicle collisions, but no deaths or major injuries have been reported, Graves said.

Firefighters from Phoenix and the Daisy Mountain Fire District on Phoenix's northern outskirts rescued at least six motorists in separate incidents, Phoenix Fire Capt. Benjamin Santillan said

"We've got units jumping from one car to the next to the next," Santillan said, adding that there have been no reports of injuries.

Floodwaters also filled Skunk Creek in the New River area north of Phoenix, carrying debris that included plastic plant pots from a nursery, tires, coolers and garbage bins.

Several other roads north of Phoenix also have been closed due to flooding.

Associated Press
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