Arizona Public Radio | Your Source for NPR News
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
Available On Air Stations
KNAU and Arizona News

Evacuees Reflect on Havasupai Flood


By Laurel Morales

Peach Springs, AZ – Heavy rainfall and a breached dam caused a flash flood in Supai Canyon late Saturday night. About 250 people - both tourists and tribal members -- were flown out of the canyon one helicopter at a time Sunday and Monday. They were bussed here to this American Red Cross shelter set up in Peach Springs on the Hualapai Reservation.

Mario Matei of Tempe was camping with his wife and friends when the flood arrived.

MATTEI: The only warning I had was four inches of water under my tent. So my wife just said it's time and I looked for my sandals and the waters were just really loud and we heard the trees snapping.

Matei and his friends were trapped high on a rock wet and cold surrounded by scorpions and rushing water. They waited in the dark until daylight when they were able to flag down a helicopter near Mooney Falls, where there's a 200 foot drop.

MATTEI: It's like Hershey's chocolate. It was just coming down massive destruction the water was just so powerful.

Hiker Larissa Bech of Phoenix says she feared for her life.

BECH: It was very scary. I mean it was the only time in my life I could say I truly feared for my life. Yeah, there were times we weren't sure if we were going to make it because we weren't sure how much the waters were going to rise. We just had no idea.

She says the flood washed away tents, cameras, car keys, shoes and other belongings.

Ronald Campbell of Virginia says he's just so relieved to be reunited with the rest of his family.

CAMPBELL: Oh boy I'm just so glad to see them safe and alive. I'd rather take this moment right now than take a million dollars in my hand. This is just wonderful to see that everybody's safe.

He says he was the last helicopter out Sunday night and the rest of his family didn't get out until Monday.

Campbell says he was one of fifty people at the Red Cross Shelter panicking, trying to get more information about his loved ones.

One Havasupai member says his village has survived other floods but he's still worried about the damage caused by this one.

My name is Warren kinda terrifying to live another day because the pipeline, the sewer line and electrical systems are all underground so there was no doubt one or all might break so it was kind of terrifying so I evacuated when I needed to.

Tribal authorities are still assessing the damage to the village.

Hikers who were flown out say the flood damaged at least one of the four iconic turquoise blue waterfalls, which are some of the most photographed falls in the world.

For Arizona Pubic Radio I'm Laurel Morales in Peach Springs, Arizona.