The Navajo Nation

Office of the President

     The Navajo Nation

Office of the President

Officials urge Navajo residents to remain cautious of floodwaters

CHINLE, Ariz. — The floods in Chinle, considered the worst local community members have seen, continue to complicate efforts for emergency personnel to control the waters, further damaging homes and roads. 

Since April 21, when a berm breached, the floods have been wreaking havoc on Chinle residents living along Chinle Wash. 

Navajo Nation President Buu Nygren spared no expense or equipment to help the affected residents affected by the floods. He visited the area and got to see firsthand the devastation the flooding has caused. 

President Nygren visited the site and said he was appreciative of the “strong collective efforts” he was seeing.

“It was my first priority that the resources of the Navajo Nation were out there,” he said. “The main thing was to get heavy equipment out there.”

President Nygren was apprised of the work that has been done to redirect the path of the flood away from homes. 

The President, along with Navajo Nation Council Delegate Shawna Claw and Chinle Chapter President Dr. Rosanna Jumbo-Fitch signed a $3 million emergency ARPA funding legislation that would go directly toward emergency efforts to save lives and stop flooding. In addition, Nygren said about $200 million in sub-recipient agreements have been accomplished. 

The Office of the President and Vice President, directed by Nygren, has been on the ground since April 21, assisting Chinle Chapter.

In January, an emergency declaration, the January 2023 Commission Emergency Management resolution, was signed by the President. The purpose of the resolution is to take care of the ongoing need for resources to address winter snow storms, mud, snow melt, and flood which create potential health and safety risks across the Navajo Nation.

The cause of the flood is snowmelt in the Chuska Mountains. According to Dr. Crystal Tulley-Cordova, Principal Hydrologist in the Navajo Nation Department of Water Resources – Water Management Branch, the snowpack is 150% more than normal. 

The runoff from the snowmelt is fed into Whiskey Creek and Tsaile Creek overflowing the two lakes — Wheatfields Lake and Tsaile Lake as well as lower-elevation reservoirs, Tulley-Cordova explained. She added Many Farms Lake and Ganado Lake, which aren’t contributing to the floods in Chinle, are full and may also overflow. 

“It’s not what we’re used to seeing,” she said. 

Tulley-Cordova said about three-fourths of the snow on the Chuska Mountains has melted, but the remaining snow that has not melted could continue to create hazardous flooding conditions for the area.

On Thursday night, the floodwaters increased, threatening a Holiday Inn in Chinle. NDOT crews and Navajo police closed off Navajo Route 7 as heavy equipment dug into a nearby hill and placed boulders and dirt into the path of the flood to stop it from flooding the hotel. 

As of Friday, the flooding has receded, giving personnel a better chance to battle the floodwaters.

Since the flooding began, resources have been deployed from the Navajo Nation, including Navajo Division of Transportation, Navajo Engineering Construction Authority, IHS, Apache County, Rubicon, American Red Cross, Navajo Technical University, and Chinle Chapter. 

Navajo Police, along with Navajo Nation Fire & Rescue, EMS, Navajo Department of Emergency Management, CHR, Navajo rangers, and Navajo Nation Fish & Wildlife, have also been on the ground assisting community members affected by the flooding. 

Some families who’ve been displaced are being placed into NHA homes, as well as hotel accommodations at local hotels. 

Tens of thousands of sandbags have been filled and dispersed by the Chinle Chapter. In addition, the chapter has also worked around the clock assisting impacted residents.

Reconstruction of the berm that breached, are underway, while NTUA has been dealing with an outlet of downed power poles with downed power lines.

IHS and Chinle Unified School District are also actively working with school children trapped in their homes as well as school bus traffic affected by the floods. In addition, IHS is monitoring safe drinking water access.

The Office of the President and Vice President, directed by President Nygren, has been on the ground since Friday, assisting Chinle Chapter and the local AmeriCorps. 

Since last Saturday, at the direction of President  Nygren, heavy equipment, backhoes, bulldozers, and front-end loaders have been deployed. 

Local chapter officials and grazing officials assisted Nygren’s staff to identify all the materials necessary to begin building a new berm to redirect the water. 

Families who’ve been displaced, are being housed in local hotels and NHA housing. 

Officials urge residents to remain prepared for sudden surges of water as the snowmelt continues. And if they need to be evacuated, to call the police.