August 24, 2012 in Nation/World

Heavy rains hit Southwest

Mead Gruver Associated Press
Associated Press photo

Volunteers search the Pittman Wash near Sam Boyd Stadium for missing teenager William Mootz in Henderson, Nev., on Thursday. Mootz accidentally fell into the wash during a rain-caused flash flood Wednesday.
(Full-size photo)

LAS VEGAS – A teenager was swept away in a drainage wash in the Las Vegas area and remained missing, and two people were rescued from a van stranded in high water in suburban Phoenix after heavy rains in the Southwest flooded ditches and roads.

Family and friends gathered Thursday in Henderson, southeast of the Las Vegas Strip, to look for a 17-year-old boy who disappeared after falling into a flood channel the day before. The wash had filled quickly after a Wednesday morning downpour.

William Mootz was hanging out with friends when he somehow fell into the Pittman Wash, which meanders past a shopping mall and his high school, police said. The teen apparently didn’t intend to get in.

“I think they were just going out there to look at the raging water in the washes,” Henderson police spokesman Keith Paul said.

Family members said the incoming high school senior is a strong swimmer and has emergency preparedness experience.

More than a dozen Henderson police officers walked up and down the wash with guidance from city public works employees who know how water typically flows down the channel. In all, about 100 volunteers were helping 40 police, firefighters and city employees look for Mootz.

They cleared an estimated 15 tons of dirt and debris from a more than mile-long, concrete-lined portion of the wash before turning their attention to a wider, muddy marsh farther downstream. Rainwater in the wash ultimately drains into Lake Mead.

In the Phoenix area, flooded roads led to a dramatic rescue Thursday morning. A driver and her disabled passenger had to be pulled from a medical transport van that was stranded after the driver tried to navigate a flooded Scottsdale wash.

Firefighters used a ladder truck, and news video showed the driver and passenger climbing out of a van stopped in the middle of a flooded area.

Heavy rains hit much of Arizona early Thursday, with more than an inch reported in an hour in parts of metropolitan Phoenix.

Normally dry washes were rushing like major rivers. Some neighborhoods were flooded, and parts of Interstate 10 on the city’s western side were inundated, snarling traffic during the morning commute.

Some Southwest residents couldn’t resist taking a plunge in the floodwaters despite the dangerous conditions.

On Wednesday, three young men were spotted riding an air mattress down floodwaters in Henderson.

The shirtless trio cheered and waved to a news helicopter crew as they rode the makeshift watercraft down the dirty waters of the canal. The station reported a police helicopter caught up with the riders and ordered them out of the water.

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