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County supervisors praise flood response


PHOENIX — Maricopa County’s Board of Supervisors took time one of last week’s meetings to praise those who helped out with an August 2021 emergency.

Supervisor Steve Gallardo, whose District 5 includes Gila Bend, started off the praise during his public comments at the end of the board’s Aug. 31 meeting.

“Gila Bend is along a main highway many of us use, but there are about 2,000 families who live down there,” Gallardo said. “Some families have been there a century or more. They almost never ask the board for anything. They don’t always know when to ask for help. They’re very proud of their community. But their mayor did the right thing and picked up the phone, and I’m proud of how county departments and others responded.”

Gallardo said the American Red Cross and Salvation Army were among organizations who helped with the relief efforts for the flooding, which primarily occurred over the weekend of Aug. 13-14 of last year.

He thanked County Manager Joy Rich for helping to coordinate emergency and relief efforts in Gila Bend — especially early on a Saturday morning, when county officials first learned how bad the flooding was in the area.

Gila Bend is somewhat isolated, located in the southwestern corner of Maricopa County, about 50 miles from downtown Phoenix. Its 2020 U.S. Census population was listed at 1,892.

The Associated Press reported monsoon rain soaked the ground around Gila Bend, which is named for a nearly 90-degree turn taken by the Gila River in the area. The fast-rising flood claimed the lives of two people.

Gila Bend officials declared a state of emergency because of the flooding, the AP reported, and law enforcement officials conducted “several rescues and ongoing evacuations” over that weekend.

Gila Bend had nearly 1.5 inches of rain in 24 hours, but a nearby site along a state highway closed because flooding measured 3.9 inches during the same period, according to the Maricopa County Flood Control District’s website.

State Route 238 is one of the few main roads in or out of Gila Bend, providing the area’s only direct link to the city of Maricopa and the Interstate 10 corridor along the Pinal/Maricopa county line. That highway was closed for several days in August 2021 because of flooding.

District 4 Supervisor Clint Hickman said he came in to help, with Gallardo’s blessing. He said many people volunteered their time and other resources to help with flood relief.
Hickman said state Rep. Joel John, who lost in the primary cycle this year in his reelection bid, used his own equipment and enlisted his sons’ help with the flooding.

“You damn sure didn’t hear about that as part of his campaign,” Hickman said, referring to John. “It’s too bad the voters can’t see, 24-7, what kind of people some representatives are, when no one’s looking.”

District 1 Supervisor Jack Sellers was the chair of the board in 2021. He was asked to declare an emergency early the morning of Aug. 13, 2021. He was out of town at the time, but decided not to head to Gila Bend upon learning Hickman and Gallardo were already on their way.

“I was so impressed they were both already headed there,” Sellers said. “We think of the summer as a slow time for county business, but the summer (especially during monsoon-effect rains) can be a crazy time, too.”

Gallardo said the Gila Bend community has bounced back in terms of resurrecting some businesses, but still has a ways to go. He said proper flood mitigation and planning by county leadership should always be a top priority.

The web page maricopa.gov/gilabendrecovery was still active, as of Tuesday, with links to resources for anyone who needs help related to the Gila Bend storms from August 2021.