SPRINGDALE, Utah (AP) — Authorities have been searching for days for an Arizona woman who was reported missing after being swept away by floodwaters in Utah’s Zion National Park as strong seasonal storms hit parts of the southwestern United States.
National Park Service officials said rangers and members of the Zion Search and Rescue Team were in the Virgin River area Sunday looking for Jetal Agnihotri, 29, of Tucson.
They said Agnihotri was among several hikers who were swept away Friday afternoon by rushing waters in the park’s popular Narrows area, known for its dramatic red rock cliffs and narrow canyons, in southern Utah near the border with Arizona.
All the trekkers except Agnihotri found themselves on high ground and were stranded until the water levels receded.
Rain can make hikes in the park deadly as moisture drains from the desert landscape and quickly fills the canyons with water, rocks, and debris, especially during the summer when afternoon thunderstorms develop. The storms can cause flooding in normally dry areas and in areas stripped of vegetation by wildfires that have ravaged the drought-stricken region.
Elsewhere in Utah, flooding in Moab, the gateway to Arches National Park, on Saturday night closed the city’s trails on Sunday as crews surveyed the damage. A video posted on the city’s Twitter account showed a creek gushing under a downtown bridge.
Meanwhile, in New Mexico, Carlsbad Caverns National Park officials said about 150 tourists were evacuated Saturday night after being stranded by rising waters.
Park officials told people at the visitor center to wait there for hours due to flash flooding.
Officials said several rivers and streams in New Mexico have nearly reached historic flood levels not seen since the 1960s due to recent heavy rains.
In Arizona, emergency crews on Friday rescued four stranded hikers in Sabino Canyon, east of Tucson, and helped 41 Marana students and staff off school buses that became trapped in high water as storms began to move in. .
More than 3 inches (7.62 centimeters) of rain fell Saturday in the mountains northeast of Tucson, according to the National Weather Service.
The rain comes in the midst of a drought that scientists say is worst in western US in 1200 years and aggravated by climate change. As a result, Colorado River reservoirs have fallen to record lows. Earlier this week, states dependent on the river missed a deadline to decide how to cut the amount of water they use from the river.
For Nevada, recent storms have given the Las Vegas metro area its wettest monsoon season in 10 years.
“Most places in Arizona, New Mexico, California deserts, southern Nevada, and a few other scattered areas have measured at least 200 percent of normal (rain) in the last 2 months,” the Monitor said. of drought in the US in a report issued on August 11.
Associated Press writers Walter Berry in Phoenix and Colleen Slevin in Denver contributed to this report.
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