Eight people are confirmed dead and at least two others are missing after a flash flood struck a popular swimming hole 90 miles northeast of Phoenix, Arizona, on Saturday. More than 100 people had gathered near the Cold Springs swimming hole near Payson to seek relief from high temperatures, which hit triple digits across the state this weekend. In addition to the heat, the Southwest has just entered its seasonal monsoon, when west and southwest winds shift to south and southeast, bringing moisture from the Sea of Cortez and fueling rapid, violent thunderstorms.
Monsoon storms knocked out power for thousands in Phoenix on Friday, spawned a tornado, and delayed flights across the region.
Saturday’s flood was caused by a storm that dumped 1.5 inches of rain in less than an hour over Ellison Creek, which feeds Cold Springs.
“There’s no way of knowing how many people were actually there,” medical district fire chief Ron Sattelmaier said. “It’s pretty much recovery [now]. We don’t believe there’s anybody left out there.
“They had no warning. They heard a roar and it was on top of them.”
The flood left people clinging to trees and swept several miles downstream. Children were among the dead and a person over 60, authorities said, but they have not released their names.
The Gila County Sheriff released the following statement:
On July 15, 2017, at approximately 3:19 p.m., the Gila County Sheriff’s Office received a 9-1-1 call regarding a Search and Rescue Operation around the Cold Springs Swimming Hole. The Payson Area experienced heavy rain throughout the region causing flash flooding in that area. Individuals were reported missing and search and rescue operations have begun. Deputies, Tonto Rim Search and Rescue, the Arizona Department of Public Safety Ranger Helicopter, Whispering Pines Fire Department and the US Forest Service have been dispatched and are actively working the scene.
Eight (8) individuals have been confirmed deceased and search operations continue for remaining missing individuals. At this time the First Crossing and Second Crossing on Houston Mesa Road as well as Waterwheel are closed.
This is an active investigation and more information may be released as it becomes available.
Adventure Journal is free but relies on reader support to make stories like this possible. Please join the thousands of your fellow adventurers and subscribe to our amazing printed quarterly or pick up an issue here.