Parts of the Navajo Nation are recovering after severe flooding caused by heavy rain in the reservation’s Central Agency area, displacing families and affecting people in Chinle, Many Farms, Rock Point, Tselani/Cottonwood, Dennehotso, and Tonalea among other towns.
More flash flood warnings were expected into the weekend, and other parts of the Navajo Nation were feared to be at risk as President Ben Shelley issued warnings and contemplated updating the flooding-induced state of emergency he had declared in August.
The Navajo Nation has been plagued with water woes ranging from a years-long drought, to a winter deep freeze that disrupted water supply, to the current inundation.
The water issues are not unconnected, said Navajo Department of Emergency Management Director Rose Whitehair. Short bursts of intense rain are responsible for the flash flooding, Whitehair said in the statement, which makes it difficult to predict where it will happen. And drought has hardened the ground so much that the water has no place to go.
“We need everyone to exercise caution and be alert to their surroundings. Though it might not be raining in your area, it can be raining in areas upstream,” Whitehair said in the Nation’s statement. “And with the long term drought, the ground is hard so there is no where for the water to go.”
As many as 50 chapters have requested assistance in Arizona, New Mexico and Utah, the Navajo Nation said, with 22 people evacuated in Chinle, 40 evacuated or rescued in Many Farms and Rock Point, and 20 homes damaged in Tonalea, Arizona. Chinle residents were returning home on Friday September 13.
Even with floodwaters subsiding, however, homes were still plagued by mud, rain, mold and infestation, according to reports.
The Nation is looking for volunteers to help in shelters and other flood-recuperation efforts, according to a statement issued on Friday September 13. Between 50 and 80 homes are within the flash flood areas, and many families had been displaced, the Nation said.
Volunteers can contact the Navajo Nation Department of Emergency Management Emergency Operation Center at 505-371-8415, 505-371- 8416, 505-371-8417.