Strong storms cause flooding, shut down airport in Phoenix; record rain hits Reno

By Amanda Lee Myers, AP
Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Sky Harbor shut down as powerful storm hits

PHOENIX — High winds, heavy rain and golf ball-sized hail swept through the Phoenix area Tuesday, downing power lines, severely damaging homes and temporarily shutting down Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport.

Also Tuesday, an early winter storm that chased record heat out of northern Nevada swamped Reno with record-setting rain and dropped enough snow at the top of the Sierra to close a mountain highway pass near Lake Tahoe.

In Phoenix, no flights arrived or left Sky Harbor for about a half-hour because of winds as strong as 70 mph, lightning, hail and rain, airport spokeswoman Deborah Ostreicher said. She said some flights were diverted but most circled the airport, waiting for the weather to clear.

Earlier in the day, the storm halted all flights for nearly an hour and delayed many more as planes backed up on runways.

Mesa fire Capt. Forrest Smith said a microburst downed 19 power poles, at least three of which landed on homes. In all, 38 homes were damaged by the storm, 12 severely, and about 100 people were displaced, Smith said.

There were no immediate reports of serious injuries.

The storms also flooded roads and dropped golf-ball-sized hail in the metropolitan Phoenix area. The Arizona Department of Transportation said flooding caused major backups on Interstate 10 and U.S. 60.

A severe weather watch remains in effect until 7 p.m. for central Arizona.

In Nevada, the National Weather Service extended a winter weather advisory through late Tuesday afternoon for Reno, Tahoe and Carson City. Temperatures were in the upper 40s in Reno at midday Tuesday after setting record highs in the mid-90s a week ago.

More than an inch of rain (1.09) fell at Reno-Tahoe International Airport on Monday, breaking the old record of 0.23 set in 1994. Snow forced the closure of California Highway 89 at Monitor Pass south of Tahoe Tuesday.

Meanwhile, concerns about rough weather delayed the America’s Challenge gas balloon race in Albuquerque, N.M., which initially was scheduled for Tuesday. The race is now slated to lift off Thursday night.

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