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Severe Thunderstorms Pound Park

Canyon De Chelly National Monument

National Park News

Severe thunderstorms and flash flooding have affected park operations at Canyon de Chelly since the monsoon season started several weeks ago. Large floods on August 1st destroyed the footbridge to Antelope House and made upper reaches of the canyons impassible. On August 3rd, with thunderstorms building again, members of the park staff were closing the visitor center when they saw a tornado just north of the park. Heavy rains in the mountains also caused a small earthen dam to fail.  Due to all the excitement, rumors started around 8 p.m. that Tsaile Dam at the head of Del Muerto Canyon had failed and that Chinle was going to be flooded. The park was inundated with calls asking about flooding and the Navajo Nation radio began reporting the incident.  Although they knew the dam was not in danger, the Navajo Police Department declared an emergency because they anticipated flooding due to the heavy rains and the already high water levels.  An incident command post was established in Chinle to handle the coordination between agencies for the emergency response.  The canyon and park campground were closed and other low lying areas were placed under a voluntary evacuation order.  Campers and local evacuees were moved to the Chinle Community Center, where a temporary shelter was established.  At midnight, members of the park’s SAR staff hiked down into the canyon to Antelope House to warn an overnight camping group of Girl Scouts to move to higher ground.  Water levels rose to very high levels early in the morning and continued through the next day. On the morning of August 4th, with the canyon impassible to vehicles, the park received a call from a historic preservation trail crew that a canyon resident had been reported to them as unconscious due to a diabetic condition.  Family members and the patient were working their way upstream using a vehicle and tractor to get through the stream crossings to a wide spot in the canyon.  The park called in a medevac helicopter from Winslow and directed it to a landing site near the location where the family was waiting.  The patient was still unconscious and was transported to the Chinle Indian Health Services hospital for treatment.  After treatment, he recovered and was released later that evening.



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