Arizona Guard Evacuates Victims of Canyon Flooding
By Air Force Master Sgt. Mike R. Smith
Special to American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, Aug. 19, 2008 At least 14 Arizona Army National Guard soldiers and two UH-60 Black Hawk helicopters continued to assist in the evacuation and emergency care of residents and campers near the Grand Canyon yesterday after heavy rains overflowed the Redlands Earthen Dam and cut off routes to a remote village and reservation.
Officials said the Arizona Guard's 98th Aviation Troop Command airlifted more than 174 people since Aug. 17 from the Supai Village area, which is a popular summer tourist destination for paddlers and hikers at the Grand Canyon. Roads and foot paths to the area were closed from heavy rains and flooding, which cut off access for nearly 400 local residents, an unknown number of campers and Havasupai tribal members.
Supai is located inside the Grand Canyon and is normally accessible only by foot, horseback or helicopter.
Guard officials said the Arizona Guard is working through the state's Department of Emergency Management to support state and local responders. The Coconino County Sheriff's Office is directing air-rescue missions that include the two Army Guard Black Hawks and a rescue helicopter from the Department of Public Safety.
"We pride ourselves in Arizona of being a statewide network that can assist with any type of emergency," said Air Force Maj. Paul Aguirre, an Arizona Guard spokesman. "This includes the federal, county and state assets that are all working diligently to make sure the people of northern Arizona are safe."
Aguirre said the Arizona Guard aircrews were assisting in the evacuation of the remaining people yesterday including searches for hikers, rafters and campers in need of assistance.
Other Guard members will continue to work with the Department of Emergency Management to ensure those evacuated remain safe and cared for and that evacuee shelters are properly maintained, Aguirre said.
(Air Force Master Sgt. Mike R. Smith is assigned to the National Guard Bureau.)