Nevada teen missing in Southwest flooding
THE ASSOCIATED PRESS | August 24,2012
Henderson Police Officer James Mitchell and his dog Xaro conduct a search of the Duck Creek Channel for 17-year-old Green Valley High School student William Mootz in Henderson, Nev.
LAS VEGAS — Heavy rains in the Southwest have flooded ditches and roads, prompting a search for a missing Las Vegas-area teen and a dramatic rescue in Phoenix.
Crews resumed the search Thursday for a 17-year-old boy who somehow ended up in a drainage wash in Henderson, Nev., which had filled quickly after a morning downpour a day earlier.
Family and friends gathered to search for William Mootz, who was swept away down the flood channel Wednesday. He had been hanging out with a group of friends and apparently didn’t intend to get into the water.
“I think they were just going out there to look at the raging water in the washes,” said Henderson police spokesman Keith Paul.
Mootz went missing in the Pittman Wash, which meanders through a suburban area southwest of Las Vegas, near a shopping mall and his high school.
Family members say the incoming high school senior is a strong swimmer and has emergency preparedness experience.
Rainwater in the wash ultimately drains into Lake Mead.
More than a dozen Henderson police officers were walking alongside the wash with guidance from city public works employees who know how water typically flows down the channel.
The Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department also was helping.
“More than anything else, it’s the use of the Metro Police helicopter that’s very helpful in searching a large area quickly,” Paul said.
City crews, meanwhile, got to work clearing brush and mud from box culverts where the wash crossed beneath roads.
“There’s 3 to 4 feet of silt and debris built up in those tunnels,” Henderson city spokeswoman Kathleen Richards said. “The mud is up to the knees of some of our searchers.”
During and after the deluge, motorists in the Henderson area found themselves stranded in deep water in city streets, with the Clark County firefighters reporting their agency alone responded to 20 calls of people stuck in their vehicles.
In the Phoenix area, flooded roads led to a dramatic rescue Thursday morning. A driver and her disabled passenger had to be pulled from a medical transport van that was stranded after the driver tried to navigate a flooded Scottsdale wash.
Firefighters used a ladder truck and news video showed the driver and passenger climbing out of a van stranded in the middle of a flooded area.
Heavy rains hit much of Arizona early Thursday, with more than an inch reported in an hour in parts of metropolitan Phoenix.
Normally dry washes were rushing like major rivers. Some neighborhoods were flooded and parts of Interstate 10 on the western side of the city were inundated, snarling traffic during the morning commute.
The unusually strong low pressure system that triggered the storms was expected to move into western New Mexico on Thursday afternoon. The National Weather Service issued flash flood watches for New Mexico areas west of the Rio Grande Valley, with heavy rain expected and flooding especially likely below mountain areas burned in recent wildfires.
In spite of the dangerous conditions, some Southwest residents couldn’t resist taking a plunge into the floodwaters.
In Henderson, Nev., on Wednesday, three young men were spotted cruising a flood channel on an air mattress.
The shirtless trio cheered and waved to a KTNV news helicopter crew as they rode the makeshift watercraft down the dirty waters of the canal. The station reports a police helicopter caught up with them and ordered the riders out of the water.