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Flood topples part of border wall

TUCSON – An unusual amount of rain that ravaged parts of southern Arizona also knocked down 60 feet of the rebar-reinforced steel fence that divides the U.S. and Mexico.

The storms began Friday in Sonora, Mexico, and resumed Saturday night until Sunday morning, when debris from the Mexican side of the border traveled through a wash and piled up against the border fence. The fence, just west of the Nogales-Mariposa Port of Entry near Interstate 19, stood between 18 and 26 feet high, and extended at least 7 feet underground.

Border agents were alerted not long after the wall fell.

“Resources have been deployed to the area until the fence is repaired. Our technology assets, such as cameras, are also able to assist us,” U.S. Border Patrol spokeswoman Nicole Ballistrea said. “Contractors have assessed the damaged section of the fence and are developing a plan to initiate repairs.”

The fence was built in 2011. It is constantly monitored by agents because smugglers and others who attempt to cross illegally routinely try to breach or knock down parts of it.

“It had a lot of water behind it and it just pushed the fence straight down,” said John Hays, floodplain coordinator for the Santa Cruz County Flood Control District. “If your fencing is tight enough to catch debris, it basically becomes a dam. It’s not meant to withstand those loads of water.”

Hays said the fence appears to have floodgates, but they did not open.

The debris and water that made it through the fence also crept into a Nogales, Ariz., neighborhood, flooding houses and business with up to 3 feet of water, Hays said.

Hays said officials do not yet have a damage cost estimate.