April 25, 2023 — On Sunday, Navajo Nation officials ordered evacuations for some residents of Chinle due to flooding caused by overflow from Tsaile Lake and Wheatfields Lake.
Patrick Sandoval, chief of staff in the Navajo Nation Office of the President and Vice President, said the priority is to ensure everyone’s safety and provide the best accommodations possible. The Navajo police have been evacuating people, and the Chinle Chapter is providing shelter for families who have evacuated. However, some residents are reluctant to leave their homes.
The cause of the flood is due to the Chinle Wash being filled with silt for over a dozen years, causing floodwater to crest its banks. The Tribe declared a state of emergency back in January due to heavy snowfall, which led to flooding and muddy roads.
Efforts to divert the water away from the community have been ongoing, but there is no plan engineered to withstand repeated flooding over time.
The Navajo Nation is a sovereign Native American territory covering about 27,000 square miles in parts of Arizona, New Mexico, and Utah. It is the largest Native American reservation in the country, with a population of over 300,000 people. The Navajo Nation has its own government, laws, and cultural traditions, and is recognized as a sovereign nation within the United States. Chinle is a community located in Apache County, in the northeastern part Arizona.
On April 11, the Associated Press reported that President Joe Biden granted a disaster declaration for the Navajo Nation, which will receive federal emergency aid to help repair damage caused by severe flooding during a series of storms earlier this year. The funds will help with emergency repairs and may also be used for other mitigation efforts, with the Federal Emergency Management Agency coordinating the recovery operations in the affected areas.
Town of Chinle, by James St. Johns, September 2007. Via Wikimedia Commons.