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After runoff release, Salt River rushing through Tempe, Mesa

PHOENIX – The generally dry Salt River will really be a river this week through Tempe and Mesa, as an Arizona utility company releases water from upstream dams.

The Salt River Project has begun to let out runoff from two reservoirs on the Verde River. Winter storms dropped record snowfalls in the higher elevations in February and combined with rain that month — about 2.40 inches in Maricopa County — to fill the watersheds.

About 2.40 inches of rain fell in Maricopa County in February.

Water has been rolling off Granite Reef Diversion Dam in Mesa into the Salt River since Friday.

The flow has made its way to Tempe Town Lake and onto Valley streets over the weekend, pouring in at a rate of 5,000 cubic feet per second.

A driver in a minivan got stuck Sunday trying cross to flooded McKellips Road near Loop 202 in Mesa. The city closed the lanes. McKellips was closed from Alma School to the highway.

The Gilbert Road bridge was restricted to a single lane in each direction because of runoff overflow.

Flooding also closed several Phoenix-area streets.

But in Tempe city officials were a little more excited about the runoff.

For one, the push of water showed the lake’s dam was working properly. The lake was designed to withstand close to 20,000 cubic feet per second.

Another plus for the city was additional visitors who come to watch the flowing.

A city representative said in an email the best views of the rushing water were from the park pathways between Priest Drive and the Tempe Center for the Arts on Rio Salado Parkway, at the west end of the lake.

The lake remained open for boating but debris, some of it large pieces, was making the trip from the Granite Reef dam, as well.

Crews moved the buoy line Monday to allow the bigger pieces of debris through and out of the main lake.

Besides the Verde River, Bartlett and Horseshoe lakes also have been filling up.

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