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The Daily Wildcat

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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


From the archives

A section of an office building on North First Avenue collapses into the Rillito River yesturday as the riverbank is eroded by floodwaters Thursday, Sept.29, 1983 .

Tucson is a dry place, but history shows that when it rains, it pours.

Twenty-six years ago this week, the pages of the Arizona Daily Wildcat were filled with the aftermath of a flood that submerged parts of Tucson and southern Arizona, killing at least 12 people.

The Friday, Sept. 30, 1983 issue of the Daily Wildcat reported that six inches of rain fell on the Tucson area since Wednesday of that week, swelling the Santa Cruz and Rillito rivers.

Staff and wire reports told of rising floodwaters that forced more than 500 Tucsonans from homes in low-lying areas, with some awaiting evacuation from their rooftops.

That’s a far cry from this year’s rainy season. The Arizona monsoon ended last week, but went out with a whimper as below-average rainfall was recorded across the state.

The Arizona Republic reported that this year’s summer marked the 10th-driest and second-hottest in state history.

If you think Tucson roads get soggy after even a drizzle, the Oct. 4, 1983, issue of the Daily Wildcat reported mass road closures in the aftermath of the storms.

North of Tucson, floodwaters in the Gila River about 20 miles south of Phoenix eroded supports for two bridges on Interstate 10, forcing officials to close the highway. Interstates 8 and 18 were also partially closed, as well as a number of others in south-central and southeastern Arizona.

“”Tucson has effectively become an island,”” said Officer Terry Conner, a spokesman for the state Department of Public Safety.

The Daily Wildcat reported that waves as tall as 15 feet could be seen on the Santa Cruz River upstream from West St. Mary’s Road.

Thousands flocked see torrents of muddy water cascading down the Santa Cruz and Rillito rivers, the Daily Wildcat reported, worsening traffic snarls caused by the closure of most city bridges.

At least one Tucson bar reported a wet-weather special, the Daily Wildcat wrote.

Little damage was reported at the UA.

Perhaps hardest hit was Clifton, a mining community about 100 miles northeast of Tucson near the New Mexico border. All 4,000 residents were evacuated and houses and businesses lay under eight feet of water.

A story from The Associated Press in the Oct. 6 issue said that President Ronald Reagan declared five Arizona counties disaster areas, with the possibility of more to come. The damage across the state was estimated to be about $300 million.

The story called the storms and subsequent flooding “”Arizona’s worst disaster of the century.””

Meanwhile, the UA College of Engineering raised money for families who lost homes in Cortaro, just north of Tucson.

The college’s head bookkeeper, Madonna Ripley, helped organize relief efforts after her sister’s home was destroyed in the flood. Her sister, Virginia Scott, was an employee of the college for 19 years.

On Oct. 12, The Associated Press reported that Tucson suffered about $6.75 million in damages and that more than 3,000 people were still without phone service.

The story also reported that the Arizona Poison and Drug Information Center at the UA issued a warning not to eat “”any of the abundant wild mushrooms”” sprouting in the aftermath of the flooding. The poison center reported taking about 40 calls from around the state involving people who had eaten the toadstools.

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