Families often stranded because of heavy rain runoff near Punkin Center

Posted at 8:00 PM, Aug 01, 2017
and last updated 2017-08-01 23:06:33-04

Heavy rains and winter runoff closed a stretch of road near Punkin Center for a total of 75 days this year, stranding hundreds of families.

Bringing home his groceries Tuesday, Boyd Peace used an off-road vehicle to cross the water running over Greenback Road. The area crosses Tonto Creek between Payson and Roosevelt Lake.

"Sometimes it's kind of nice to be over here by yourself in the quiet," Peace said.

Some neighbors are fed up about the hazards and hassles of the flooding. The mail, garbage trucks, and regular school buses sometimes can't get through. The population of that area, the Tonto Basin, is between 600 and 1,000 people. In an emergency, they would have to airlifted.

"When it stays for two or three weeks, people start running out of stuff, and they get desperate to cross," Peace said.

People don't always make it across the flooded wash. Two people died in the high water in 2005. Since then, others needed to be rescued after getting stuck.

Gila County's public works director says a bridge to span the Tonto Creek in the area would be 1,900 feet long and would cost $17 million. While the county has scraped together funding for the land and bridge design, officials say they still can't afford the bridge construction.

"They keep saying they're going to build a bridge, resident Toni McCracken said. "And they never do."