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Updated Aug 4, 2014 - 6:30 pm

Storm causes freeway closure, roof damage in Tempe

TEMPE, Ariz. — Storms that brought strong winds and rains to metropolitan
Phoenix closed a section of freeway for eight hours, damaged the roof of an
animal hospital and temporarily left thousands of homes without electricity
across the state.

The roadway closure was prompted by a cable line that fell on the Loop 101
freeway around 7 p.m. Sunday and caused countless motorists to be backed up in
traffic. The stretch of freeway reopened early Monday morning.

It made for an agonizing wait as cars backed up for miles and miles with
nowhere to go. At first, people stood on their roofs in frustration, but drivers
later embraced the ordeal and turned it into a festive occasion.

“By that time, people had realized nobody is going anywhere any time soon so
we just camped out,” said Jeannine Sander, 32, a medical imaging facility
manager.

“It felt kind of block-partyish,” said Jennifer Rojas, a 42-year-old human
resources professional who was stuck in the traffic. “People got out, people
were playing hockey, people were talking to each other in different cars.”

Lake Havasu City experienced serious weather problems as well. Violent wind
gusts toppled power lines and knocked out power to thousands of residents. About
35 power poles in Lake Havasu City snapped in half.

More than 14,000 homes in Lake Havasu City lost power for about six hours, said
Bill DeJulio, senior director for the Mohave County area for Unisource, which
provides power to 45,000 in the city. Power was restored to all but 150
customers Sunday night, DeJulio said.

Fire Chief Dennis Mueller said a downed power line struck a vehicle as it
traveled on Highway 95 south of town, causing the car to overturn. The driver
was not injured, Mueller said.

Mueller said washes in a hard-hit section of town were flowing like rivers and
video of the storm sent in by residents captured powerful images of destruction.

“It showed power lines snapped, and it just looked like a twig in the wind. It
just got snapped so fast,” Mueller said.

The National Weather Service said Lake Havasu City received between a half inch
and one inch of rain and winds that reached 35 mph. The city faces a 20 percent
chance of storms Monday, but chances for rain decrease throughout the rest of
the week.

In the Phoenix area, Tempe experienced four-tenths of an inch of rainfall
within about 10 minutes and high winds that ripped off half of the roof at the
VCA Tri City Animal Hospital and Acacia Cat Hospital.

Tempe fire spokesman Carlos Elzy says there were no people inside the hospital
at the time and that the few animals that were inside weren’t injured.

About 4,600 Salt River Project customers lost electricity, but as of Monday
morning, power had been restored to all but about 65 customers.

Marvin Percha, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Phoenix,
said another storm on Sunday dropped up to 2 inches of rain in the Wickenburg
area.

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