UPPER FRUITLAND — Recent rains have shut down a portion of Route 562, and because tribal road crews have been busy repairing other streets, it's not clear when the road will repaired.

Route 562 washed out early Friday when a 72-inch culvert collapsed, dividing the loop that travels from the old Navajo 36 road in Upper Fruitland.

The gap is wide enough to fit a double-wide trailer, and remnants of the culvert sit in the stream bed.

Ronald Nakai lives next to the stream and watched the culvert collapse at about 2 a.m. Friday.

"I already knew it would happen," he said. "That's why I stayed up."

At Nakai's property, the ditch is about 10 feet deep and contains water that runs off from Navajo Agricultural Products Industry.

Throughout last week's storms, he watched as tree branches and other debris began to block the culvert's opening. With nowhere to go, he said, the water started running over Route 562 until the road collapsed.

"It sounded like a train going by," Nakai said. "You could hear the vibration."

Rico Alleva, an employee with Sacred Wind Communications, stood Tuesday on the west side of the large opening and watched the water. He was trying to find a way to reconnect telephone and Internet service to residents east of the washed out road.

Transportation officials met Saturday to devise a plan to repair the road, said Navajo Division of Transportation spokesman Rick Abasta.

Although NDOT crews placed barriers on both sides of the damaged roadway, work to repair it has not yet been scheduled. That's because workers have been busy with other road emergencies on the Navajo Nation caused by recent flooding, Abasta said.

Rico Alleva with Sacred Wind Communications works Tuesday on a telephone line on a washed out section of Route 562 in Upper Fruitland.
Rico Alleva with Sacred Wind Communications works Tuesday on a telephone line on a washed out section of Route 562 in Upper Fruitland. (Jon Austria/The Daily Times)

Abasta said crews were called away from Route 562 to assist in maintaining the earthen dam that almost breached Sunday evening in Crownpoint.

With NDOT crews busy with tribal roadways, the transportation division is working with the Bureau of Indian Affairs Force Account crew to install a new culvert, Abasta said. No start or completion dates have been set.

The transportation division also contacted San Juan County officials to assist in repairs, but no agreement has been made, Abasta said.

County Executive Officer Kim Carpenter said since Route 562 is located on the Navajo Nation, jurisdiction plays a role. And with the recent rain activity causing problems across the county, San Juan County's crews are busy addressing those damages, he said.

The Navajo Nation has received its share of rain in the past week, and NDOT has been dealing with roads damaged by flooding in Arizona's Chinle, Many Farms, Round Rock, Piñon, Nazlini and Sweetwater.

In San Juan County, tribal roads in Crownpoint, Shiprock and Teec Nos Pos have been effected.

Abasta said NDOT crews have covered 213 miles of road improvements.

"NDOT crews have been working around the clock to get things reopened," Abasta said.

Noel Lyn Smith covers the Navajo Nation for The Daily Times. She can be reached at 505-564-4636 and nsmith@daily-times.com. Follow her @nsmithdt on Twitter.