A Facebook post by the Gila County Sheriff's Office on Friday morning noted that three crossings over Arizona's Tonto Creek in Tonto Basin had been shut down, warning everyone not to attempt to use them. But that afternoon, what ABC15 describes as a "military-type vehicle" carrying nine family members from a holiday get-together tried to go over the barricaded creek, and three children are now missing after a flash flood overtook the vehicle. Gila County Undersheriff Mike Johnson tells CNN it was around 4pm when the car started over the Bar X Crossing, but floodwaters soon stymied that effort.
One of the two adults in the car escaped with four kids onto an island in the middle of the water; they were rescued by a local law-enforcement helicopter. An adult woman also managed to get out of the car and make her way to the bank of the creek. It's not clear what happened, however, to three other children—two 5-year-olds and a 6-year-old—who'd been in the car with the rest of the family. Officials say dozens of people are helping in the search and rescue effort for the three missing kids. A flood warning remained in place until nearly 9pm last night in Gila County, with Phoenix's National Weather Service alerting locals that "arroyos, streams, and rivers can become raging killer currents in a matter of minutes, even from distant rainfall." (Read more flash floods stories.)