Sat, Sept. 19

Verde Heritage 1952: New Year Ushered In By Record River Torrents.

"Verde Valley residents generally felt relieved to have escaped with no loss of life and relatively light flood damage when snow, rain, and the accompanying floods hit northern Arizona Sunday. Though it had rained steadily and gently in the valley throughout the day, the moisture here was not enough to account for the swollen streams. Nor was it the soaking type of rain that gave minor runoff. The rain that melted snows above the rim and in the Chino Valley, however, raised the Verde River, Oak Creek, Beaver Creek, Clear Creek, and other tributaries to capacity."

"The highway up Oak Creek canyon was closed Saturday night to traffic. Monday it was open again. A wooden bridge near Indian Gardens in the canyon was carried away by high waters. Homes on the banks of the creek were menaced. None was reported flooded or destroyed. At the bridge above Page Springs a water depth of fourteen and a half feet was measured. At Cornville the surface of the water was about two feet beneath the bridge. Irrigation ditch inlets were damaged along the route."

"At Bridgeport the Verde flooded the cottonwoods and was retained on the west by a low levee."

"Below the junction of Oak Creek with the Verde a section of the Verde Electric Co-op power line was destroyed."

"The combined waters of the streams stayed beneath the Camp Verde iron bridge, but inundated land near the river banks. At the concrete bridge south of Camp Verde the water was high enough to flow across the pavement of the bridge approach. It reached no homes. The Diamond S ditch on the east side of the river was under seven or eight feet of water Monday morning."

"Luckily rain above the rim turned to snow Sunday afternoon and slowed the melting runoff. Old-timers placed the last comparable runoff variously between 1935 and 1938."


"It took the services of two experienced Colorado River boatmen to restore electric power service in the Middle Verde area after the Verde River went big time from Sunday to New Year's Day."

"Elmer Purtymun, of Sedona, took an icy dunking, however, and had to float helplessly with the current for 150 feet or so before he rejoined the rubber boat he had used so successfully on the Colorado. His partner, Bill Towne, was in the boat but could do little more than steer it with the paddles."

"Electric current went off when three poles and the transmission line were washed away below the intersection of Oak Creek and the Verde River. A Verde Electric crew led by Alvin Wetmore, manager, and Sam Hammons, lineman, were joined by a Northern Arizona Light and Power Company crew led by Ernest Killebrew, in an attempt to restore the line across the river. They decided to start a longer span from higher ground with a firm foundation."

"The river above the OK irrigation dam was approximately half a mile wide. The dam held and the river below varied from 600 feet wide to a quarter of a mile. The line was replaced below the dam."

"To solve the problem of getting a line across the raging waters they called Purtymun and Towne. It was about 10 a.m. of New Year's Day that the two boatmen started across the river in the navy assault boat. Purtymun held the line while Towne handled the paddles. As the current swung them downstream, Purtymun saw that it would be impossible to manipulate the boat to the opposite shore. They had reached a point where he thought the water was about waist deep. Hanging onto the line, he plunged in and attempted to wade. The water was deeper than he thought. Though he touched loose bottom, it too was moving. He was carried downstream and was forced to relinquish the line to keep from being dragged under water. He floated with the current for some distance, before regaining a hold on the boat. Back on the bank he changed clothes and dried by the bonfire."

"The third and finally successful attempt was made at the narrowest point by entering the water just below the dam and angling across the river. Then Norman Clark waded hip-deep from the opposite shore and grasped the end of the line."

"From there the linemen of the two power companies took over. Car lights and flashlight batteries ran down during the night and the work was completed by the light of a bonfire. Electric power had been off for 48 hours by the time it was restored at 3 a.m. Wednesday morning."

"Manager Wetmore yesterday afternoon expressed his appreciation for the work of Purtymun and Towne as well as for the cooperation of the Northern Arizona Light and Power Company."

"Elmer Purtymun leaves today for southern California, where he will show Colorado River pictures to various service clubs. There are no pictures of his bout with the Verde."

(The Verde Independent; Cottonwood; Thursday, January 3, 1952; page 1.)

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