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Tropical storm Nora to impact Arizona
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PHOENIX — Despite losing considerable wind intensity following its landfall in Mexico this past weekend, Nora will still make its presence felt in Arizona this week.

AccuWeather forecasters expect the tropical storm to unleash heavy rain over the drought-laden Southwest and raise the risk of flash flooding.

Moisture from the former hurricane is expected to surge over Arizona, New Mexico, Utah and Colorado later Tuesday into Thursday. Across far southeastern California, the risk of locally heavy rainfall will be limited to Tuesday and Tuesday night.

“This surge of moisture will lead to tropical downpours and the threat of flash flooding,” said Brian Thompson, AccuWeather senior meteorologist and western U.S. expert. Mudslides are also possible, especially in burn scar areas.

Flash flood watches have been posted for places such as Palm Springs, California, and Phoenix, Tucson and Flagstaff ahead of the soaking rainfall.

Rainfall rates could reach as high as 1-2 inches per hour in the heaviest downpours, leading to rapid runoff into arroyos (dry stream beds) and poor drainage areas.

Forecasters urge motorists to use extreme caution on the roadways as some routes could be flooded and blocked by swift-moving water. Drivers should never attempt to drive through floodwaters, as the water is likely deeper than it appears and the roadway underneath could be compromised.

Even in the absence of flooding, travel on sections of Interstates 8, 10, 15, 17, 40 and 70 is likely to be slowed due to reduced visibility. Flights into and out of Phoenix could be delayed.

“Las Vegas will be on the cusp of some of these showers and storms. While there can be a downpour or two around from Tuesday night into Wednesday, it looks like the bulk of the action will stay off to the east,” Thompson said.

Thompson noted that the surge of tropical moisture may be particularly noticeable and perhaps historic farther to the north.

Precipitable water, or a measure of the amount of moisture available in the atmosphere, is one of the indices meteorologists look at to determine the potential for heavy rainfall and how anomalous a rain event could be for a particular region. Forecasters expect precipitable water values for this event to be unusually high, given how much tropical moisture is in play.

“The record values for precipitable water in Grand Junction, Colorado, in early September are generally between 1.1 and 1.3 inches, very close to what is being forecast. The average is about half of that,” Thompson said.

Much of the Four Corners region has experienced above-normal rainfall since the start of the monsoon, which has helped to significantly cut into the ongoing drought. Still, severe to extreme drought conditions remain prevalent for much of the area. Any non-flooding rainfall this week will prove beneficial in continuing to ease drought conditions.

“It’s worth noting that this is not the first time a storm named Nora has impacted the Southwest. The 1997 version of Nora brought heavy downpours to parts of Southern California and Arizona. The Harquahala Mountains recorded 12.01 inches of rain, one of the highest rainfall amounts from a tropical system ever recorded in Arizona,” Thompson said.

“Meanwhile, not too far to the east, there was less of a tenth of an inch of rain in Phoenix. We will likely see drastic differences in rainfall from this iteration of Nora as well,” Thompson said.

Prior to and during its trek into the Southwest, Tropical Rainstorm Nora will continue to produce showers and heavy thunderstorms with a risk of flash flooding and mudslides across northwestern Mexico.

Nora turned deadly in the country on Sunday when a teenager from Spain died after a hotel partially collapsed in Puerto Vallarta amid severe flooding, The Associated Press reported. In addition, seven people were listed as missing — six fishermen and one woman who went missing after her car was swept away, and two people were injured in a landslide. At least 500 homes sustained flood damage.

Nora was a Category 1 hurricane (maximum sustained winds of 74-95 mph) when it made landfall on the western part of the Mexican state of Jalisco on Saturday evening. The storm hugged the coast of Mexico into Monday, losing wind intensity as it interacted with the rugged terrain just to the east.

There are no tropical threats in the wake of Nora across the eastern Pacific Ocean.


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Voting rights event in Eloy celebrates culture and hopes for change
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ELOY — Pinal County’s version of March On for Voting Rights turned into a celebration of culture, filled throughout Saturday morning with food, guest speakers and performances.

The event served a number of purposes — to encourage attendees to register to vote, discuss issues with voting laws that make it more difficult for minorities to vote but to also celebrate the cultures that make up Pinal County.

“We wanted to be as inclusive as possible — that was definitely intentional — and we wanted an event that reflected our community,” event organizer Andrea Varela said. “So the fact that we were able to get people from all across cultures, communities, traditions and values, I think, was an amazing show of what our nation is and what we need to reflect.”

David Church / David Church/PinalCentral 

Event organizer Andrea Varela speaks to attendees at the March On for Voting Rights event at Eloy City Hall Saturday, Aug. 28.

The event was held on the 58th anniversary of Martin Luther King Jr.’s “I Have a Dream” speech. With similar events being held in both Phoenix and Tucson, organizers decided to hold one in Eloy as well, to give area residents a better chance to attend.

“It’s great from both the city standpoint and the business community, it’s great that Eloy is getting recognized as a focal point,” Eloy Vice Mayor Andrew Rodriguez said. “Pinal County is getting recognized as well, so now they know that Pinal County is a team player and it is a huge player in any kind of politics. It feels good to have it in our home town with our local artists and leaders.”

The event had guest speakers like Eloy Elementary School District Superintendent Ruby James, community activist Roberto Reveles, a musical performance from KURE-LP Station Manager Chris Ruhe as well as dance performances from Ballet Folklórico Del Sol.

Organizers only had about 11 days to plan the event, but Rodriguez said that he thought it was really successful, even with the tight circumstances for planning it.

“It went really great, everybody loved the entertainment, everybody loved the food, and it is a good time for people to get back together,” Rodriguez said. “We are not just getting together for the heck of it, there’s a good cause behind this, and people know that there’s a reason for an event like this.”

For Varela, the voting rights march is a chance to show smaller communities that they have a voice, and their voice matters. Varela spoke about her experience participating in a Black Lives Matter march last year and said that events like this light fires under people to strive for change.

“It means so much to me because it shows how much our community really cares,” Varela said. “We weren’t sure what the turnout would be, but the amount of people here today, the speakers, the entertainment, it’s just a feeling of solidarity and compassion on an equal drive for equity and justice for the voting rights that we all need.”

'Mom and pop' CG businesses survived the pandemic, hope to preserve character
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CASA GRANDE — Along Florence Boulevard, franchise outlets like Texas Roadhouse and Whataburger continue to open up, but can mom and pop stores thrive in a post-pandemic environment?

Local small business owners and community groups have been working to keep independent stores afloat and hope to preserve the downtown area’s “old fashioned, Casa Grande feel,” as shop owner LaDonna Ford describes it.

Casa Grande Main Street Director Holly Rakoci said it was a struggle for businesses last year when the shutdown first began.

“There simply wasn’t a lot of foot traffic for a while down here,” Rakoci said. “Businesses had to stick to very strict guidelines, and our hands were tied on what sort of help we could provide.”

But the news is not all bleak. The businesses that have opened in the past year have weathered unique challenges, but arrive at a time when Casa Grande is growing steadily.

Donna Kerr, who owns a strip center with several stores across from City Hall, said she was able to bring in several new tenants around the time the pandemic began, including a Mexican crafts store, an art studio and a smoke shop. The center has also been home to a hair salon for over 30 years.

Kerr and her husband, former Casa Grande Mayor Jimmie Kerr, originally bought the property in the early 1970s. Kerr herself, now 84, runs an antique store, Little Barrel Antiques & Collectables.

After dealing with a number of vacancies a few years back, Kerr said they finally started working through a local Realtor, and she said she was “shocked” by the interest in the units during the pandemic. The Kerrs supplemented rent for the new businesses through the first months of the shutdown.

“We were concerned,” Kerr said. “We’d rather they keep the doors open than have to start all over again with new tenants or have an empty building. The woman who owned the hair salon was petrified she was going to have to close, but we said, ‘Nope, we’ll help you stay.’”

Kerr said that since the spring, the new businesses have done well.

Ford, who opened her boutique store, Arizona Native Lotions and Soaps, last September, said negotiations and approval for the storefront just happened to coincide with the pandemic and she was determined to get things going.

“I got the keys, and I was like, ‘You know what, I got soap, so I’m essential,’” Ford joked.

The store’s merchandise includes goods from nearly two dozen local vendors. Ford said she’s happy with how business has gone, with the exception of July, which she felt had more to do with people traveling to escape the heat as opposed to the pandemic.

Ford also praised the Main Street organization and Richard Wilkie, the city’s economic development director, for assisting her with marketing so she could hit the ground running.

Kerr said the biggest thing the downtown area needs is more parking; Kerr is also on a committee to try and find new life for the old Casa Grande Union High School auditorium, which is being used for storage by the city.

Other new independent stores that have opened downtown since last June include Riley Switch Enterprises, Casa Grande Skate Shop and Casa Grande Books, Movies and More.

Rakoci said that one of her major goals as executive director of CG Main Street is to find partner organizations to “make things happen” and bring in new businesses.

Rakoci also feels that the industrial growth south and west of downtown, and the overall housing boom, are major benefits for city business.

“Many of these new people have expressed how much they love our downtown,” Rakoci said. “That helps our events grow, provides more foot traffic, and overall improves downtown’s economic vitality.”

While Rakoci said they’d love to see new businesses come to downtown, Main Street’s priority remains to make sure current businesses are doing well and to preserve current projects like the Neon Sign Park and alley murals.

“Our goal is to get back on our feet financially,” Rakoci said. “COVID really hurt us since most of our fundraising comes from events like the Street Fair. We want to fully operate and offer the programs and benefits we used to.”

Main Street is partnering with the city this fall and winter to host the city’s “Concert in the Park” series at the Neon Sign Park during the Downtown After Dark events, which take place the second Friday of every month.

Some upcoming events at or near downtown include: a downtown Halloween stroll from noon to 3 p.m. on Oct. 30; a Small Business Saturday on Nov. 27; and a special themed Downtown after Dark in October for Hispanic Heritage Month, with additional activities.