The storm that interrupted the annual Dick Wick Hall Days
By Ron Kilber
Wenden, Ariz., October 22, 2000 -- The storm that interrupted the annual Dick Wick Hall Days in Salome also seriously interrupted the lives of many today in La Paz County. Hundreds of residents were forced from their homes as an overnight storm dumped enough water in McMullen Valley to flood Centennial Wash near the tiny farming community of Wenden and Arizona Highway 60. Homes were flooded and mobile homes and cars floated away by waters swelling the normally dry wash flowing under Highway 60.
Looking south across Centennial Wash from Alamo Street
Helicopters and buses were called in to rescue and carry residents to safety. As many as 300 hundred were evacuated, first to Salome then to Parker as the water kept rising after evening storms overwhelmed Centennial Wash with two- to three-inches of rain. More precipitation is forecasted through Monday morning.
Lowell Rohrig and grandson, Shawn
Just south of the railroad tracks at the corner of Alamo and Highway 60 in Wenden, long-time Arizona resident Lowell Rohrig, 72, has been bivouacing for twelve hours in his pickup, together with dogs Sissy and Chequita. At 4 a.m., along with his wife Betty and a third dog Peanuts, all were forced from home by rising floor waters flowing through nearby Centennial Wash.
Lowell Rohrig, Jr.'s airplane, which had water above the wings
Rohrig first knew there was something seriously wrong when his son phoned at 4 a.m. from his own flooded home two blocks away. That was while Rohrig was sleeping and already four inches of water had accumulated on the floor of his home at 3rd and Cedar streets in Wenden. By the time he and his wife Betty evacuated, four feet of water had already occupied their home. Mrs. Rohrig and Peanuts took up refuge at their daughter's home in Salome.
Suffering from emphysema and tethered to a 4/8-hour oxygen bottle doesn't sway Rohrig from maintaining vigil on the receding flood waters. He plans to remain in his pickup overnight, if that's how long it'll take before the waters will diminish enough to return to his home. Four reserve oxygen bottles are nearby to help him through the night and morning.
Once Blackhawk Street, now a new waterway relieving pressure from Centennial Wash
Just north of the railroad tracks, Blackhawk Street is no more, replaced by a fast flowing torrent produced by overflow that was too much for Centennial Wash.
Rohrig said he has never seen it this bad in Wenden, EVER. He blames the problem on wiped out flood-control damns, which the Army Corps of Engineers has never bothered to repair or replace.
Rohrig's son, Lowell Jr. evacuated his wife and three children to safety. His dog Buster, however, was lost to waters downstream, only to reappear later, tired and too afraid to respond to his master. Now, 12 hours later, Buster holds up on the seat in Lowell Jr's pickup.
The flood waters have rendered portions of Highway 60 impassable. As of 5 p.m. Sunday, the route was still closed, forcing Wickenburg- and Prescott-bound traffic to retreat to I-10 via Brenda, a detour as much as 100 miles out of the way. Vicksburg Road above I-10 is also closed, as is the Salome Highway from Highway 60 to mile marker 81 on I-10.
The fall storm produced rain over many areas of Arizona, with as much wind pounding trees, homes and buildings.
Copyright (C) 2000 Ron Kilber firstname.lastname@example.org RonKilber.tripod.com Non-commercial reproduction permitted in its entirety with this copyright notice intact.
8:29 p.m. 10/22/00