Members Safe, Some Lose Homes in Arizona Floods
November 1983

“Members Safe, Some Lose Homes in Arizona Floods,” Ensign, Nov. 1983, 94–95

Members Safe, Some Lose Homes in Arizona Floods

Early reports from southeastern Arizona indicated that more than three dozen member families lost their homes or saw them heavily damaged during flooding that hit the region the first week of October. No Church members were killed or injured.

Several families had to be housed with other members; airplanes were being used for deliveries into the area, which was cut off by flood waters. In addition to members’ property, Church buildings and farms were damaged in some areas, but no estimate of the total cost is yet available.

The flooding, described by some as the worst disaster of the century in Arizona, took eleven lives and left four other Arizonans missing during that week. Estimates of property damage topped three hundred million dollars.

Church property and members’ private property were destroyed or damaged by the floodwaters in a number of southeastern Arizona cities and towns, among them Clifton, Marana, Winkelman, Maricopa, and Safford, the town where President Spencer W. Kimball was serving as stake president when he was called into the Quorum of the Twelve.

Priesthood leaders checked to be sure members were housed and secure, then turned to the task of organizing cleanup efforts. Commodities from bishops’ storehouses and Deseret Industries were distributed in Clifton, Maricopa, and Winkelman. A temporary emergency command post was set up in the stake center in Safford until the need was past. In Kearney, the meetinghouse was used as an evacuation center, in cooperation with the Red Cross.

Highways or bridges had been washed away or damaged in a wide area; the cost of damage to roads and highways alone was estimated at ten to twelve million dollars.

Heavy rains had caused the San Francisco River to overflow, forcing evacuation of more than one hundred families from the Phelps-Dodge company mining town of Clifton; more than half the town was washed away. The Santa Cruz River washed through Marana. Flooding from the Gila River affected Safford.

Destruction was so extensive that President Ronald Reagan declared seven counties—Greenlee, Pima, Santa Cruz, Graham, Pinal, Gila, and Yavapai—disaster areas. American Red Cross surveys showed approximately 3,800 homes, mobile homes, apartment units, and small businesses had been destroyed or damaged.

As soon as information was available, Brother Arthur W. Elrey, Regional Representative of the Thatcher and Tucson regions, relayed it to Church headquarters in Salt Lake City.


The overflowing San Francisco River turned Arizona streets and yards into lakes. Part of Clifton, shown here, was washed away. (Photo courtesy of the Eastern Arizona Courier.)


Mike Burraston and Joe McCaleb of the Tucson 16th Ward shovel silt out of nonmember’s garage. (Photo by Manuel Miera.)