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Supervisor Bronson rescued after SUV swept into flooded wash

Pima County Supervisor Sharon Bronson was among the drivers caught in Tuesday's torrential rains. Tucson firefighters pulled Bronson from her vehicle after it was swept down a flooded wash near East Ft. Lowell Road.

Around 9:30 a.m., Bronson was headed east on Ft. Lowell and turned south onto Balboa Road to avoid a flooded street. Her county-provided SUV was then caught in a low crossing of Cemetery Wash that was running with rainwater, and swept about a block west, stopping at a culvert under North Oracle Road. The wash crossing dips about five feet below the regular street level.

The Tucson Fire Department handled 75 weather-related calls Tuesday, performing eight swift-water rescues and dealing with 45 vehicles stranded in water, TFD's Capt. Barrett Baker said.

In Bronson's case, she called 911 as her vehicle was filling with water as it was pinned against the concrete bridge.

"Firefighters had just cleared several calls in the area for stranded motorists and were on scene very quickly," Baker said. "The water was up the windshield level of the SUV as crews arrived."

"The driver side's was pinned against the bridge and the passenger side was taking the full force of the water so crews had to break open the rear window of the vehicle and pull the occupant out of the back," Baker said.

"I want to express my appreciation to the Tucson Fire and Police departments for their professionalism and heroism," Bronson said in a news release from the county. "This was an extraordinary storm and illustrates that when even driving on roads that are not barricaded, there is a potential risk."

Bronson was checked at the scene and did not require any medical care, Baker said.

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"The majority of the water-related calls were on the west side of the city, ranging from roughly Country Club to I-10 and from Congress to Prince. While there were several close calls, there were no injuries reported from any of the incidents that crews responded to," Baker said.

Although there is a "Dip - Do Not Enter When Flooded" sign on Balboa Road about 75 yards north of Cemetery Wash, there were not yet barricades placed in the street at the time Bronson was washed away. She was not cited in the incident. A Tucson Police Department spokesman said that no citations were issued under the "Stupid Motorist Law" in any of Tuesday's incidents. Under the state law, motorists who drive around barricades and into flooded areas can be charged with the costs of their rescue.

Hours after the incident, another disabled vehicle sat just a few yards east of Balboa on Ft. Lowell, its left wheels hard against the curb line but with its chassis sitting atop brush where it had apparently been swept during the storm.

Many areas around Tucson had two inches of rain or more fall during Tuesday's storm.

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Bronson's vehicle after it was swept downstream in Cemetery Wash.