Monsoon pummels Pinal roads, but not like in '06 - East Valley Tribune: News

Monsoon pummels Pinal roads, but not like in '06

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Posted: Thursday, July 17, 2008 7:43 pm | Updated: 9:18 pm, Fri Oct 7, 2011.

The monsoon rains late last week hit Pinal County pretty hard, leaving some 13 sections of roads closed due to flood-carried debris or needed repairs.

INTERACTIVE: See how monsoons work

County officials said Thursday that the monsoon didn't compare to the rain experienced in 2006, considered a state and federal disaster. However, the most recent rainfall was 3 inches in areas of the county - briefly closing state Highway 79 between Florence and Florence Junction and a portion of Hunt Highway.

Both are vital links in a county that notoriously lacks key roads from Maricopa County. Many in the bedroom county work in Maricopa County and travel home to their suburban homes that dot the northeastern part of the county.

Currently, road closures exist only in District 1 in the remote area near the San Pedro River, which swelled from the rain that hit Arizona last week.

"This was pretty bad, but it doesn't rank up there with 2006," said Greg Stanley, county public works director. "We had rain for about two weeks in 2006."

The county's most recent improvement to its road system - the Ironwood-Gantzel project in the northwest part of the county that connects to U.S. 60 - held up well in the monsoon, county officials said. The modern road is elevated and has a good drainage system.

Hunt Highway, probably the county's biggest link to its suburban neighborhoods, didn't fare as well. Hunt Highway from the Maricopa County line to the Empire Road-Ellsworth area was closed last Thursday night up to Friday morning, county officials said.

"Most of it was open before the commute," Stanley said.

Hunt Highway doesn't have the kind of drainage improvements in most areas that would keep flooding at bay. Drainage improvements have been built by certain developers that have housing developments that are accessed by the highway.

Eventually, the county plans to improve the drainage along the vital road from the Maricopa County border to Florence. The first phase of those drainage improvements will start at the Maricopa County line and be built about a quarter-mile east of Thompson Road. Construction is planned for January, Stanley said.

The recently improved Ironwood-Gantzel Road, which extends as far south as Johnson Ranch, used to have problems holding up on rainy days, Stanley said.

"Before we built it, that was a road that in a very minor storm we would have to close," Stanley said.

The county expects to shell out $30,000 in wages and equipment expenses from the most recent rain. During the cleanup, 50 or 60 workers were dispatched to remove gravel, limbs and other debris from roads. Other times, roads that had shoulders washed out needed to be built back up to make them safe for traffic.

Most of the road closures stymied motorists last Friday. But as the water receded, work crews were able to go in and repair roads and remove debris.

Gordon Brown, who lives on the south side of the San Tan Mountains, said that his rural neighborhood was spared from the worst of the storm. Most of the rain flowed to the north slope of the mountains, he said.

"We got a pretty good storm, but they got like 3 inches" of rain, he said.

He said his house is on a slope and most of the water drained out without causing too many problems. Some of the private gravel roads get too muddy for crossing in rain situations, he said.

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