Heavy rains pound Phoenix, close roads and schools


Heavy rains pound Phoenix, close roads and schools

A truck creates a wake as its driver tries to navigate a severely flooded street as heavy rains pour down Monday, Sept. 8, 2014, in Phoenix.

PHOENIX (Reuters) – A major storm packing heavy rains pounded the Phoenix area early on Monday, forcing schools to cancel classes and closing roads including sections of two major freeways.

The downpour brought chaos to the morning commute for many, turning parts of highways into lakes, with officials saying parts of both Interstates 10 and 17 were shut to traffic.

Arizona Governor Jan Brewer declared a statewide emergency for areas affected by the severe rainfall and flooding.

“Non-essential state employees should stay home today. If you must travel, please do so with caution & BE SAFE!” Brewer said on Twitter, alongside the hashtag #TurnAroundDontDrown.

More than 2.9 inches of rain fell on Sky Harbor International Airport, breaking a record set in 1933 for the most rainfall in a single day in Phoenix.

As the rain continued to come down, airport spokeswoman Heather Lissner said planes were still taking off and landing.

She said travelers were encouraged to check their flight status before leaving for the airport, and to give themselves extra time to get there.

Utility companies said there were roughly 20,000 customers without electricity because of downed power poles and lines throughout metropolitan Phoenix.

“Our power outage map kind of looks like a Christmas tree right now,” said Jeff Lane, a spokesman for Salt River Project, which operates local power plants and water facilities.

Multiple schools in the Phoenix area canceled classes for the day, and others pushed back the start of the school day until later in the day.

The National Weather Service in Phoenix issued a flash flood warning for the area until 10 a.m. local time.

(Reporting by David Schwartz; Editing by Daniel Wallis and Doina Chiacu)