By David Schwartz

PHOENIX (Reuters) - Parts of Utah and Colorado were placed under flash flood warnings on Tuesday, a day after the drought-stricken U.S. Southwest was hit by a record downpour that turned highways into lakes and killed two women washed away by fast-flowing waters.

Drier weather brought some relief to southern Arizona, which was hard hit on Monday. In the city of Mesa, east of Phoenix, more than 100 homes were affected by floods, and images showed streets and children's playgrounds partially submerged.

Months of severe drought exacerbated the situation in many areas, with arid conditions stripping away vegetation that would normally trap or slow rainfall.

As the storm appeared to move north and northeast, the National Weather Service (NWS) issued flash flood warnings Tuesday for parts of southern Utah and southeastern Colorado.

In Arizona on Monday, Governor Jan Brewer declared a state of emergency.

A record 3.29 inches of rain fell on Phoenix's Sky Harbor International Airport, beating the 2.91 inches that fell in September 1939 for the city's most rainfall in a single day.

Mark O'Malley, an NWS meteorologist in Phoenix, said the area could see some scattered showers and thunderstorms through Tuesday evening, a potential problem since the ground is already saturated.

"We've had so much rain and standing water that any more rain we get is only going to exacerbate the problem," he said, adding that the NWS is predicting a drying trend starting on Wednesday.

Parts of both Interstates 10 and 17 in Arizona were shut to traffic on Monday, and a section of Interstate 15 in Nevada, where emergency workers plucked at least 15 stranded motorists from their cars, was closed too.

Two women died on Monday in separate incidents in Arizona. In the first, a woman in her 50s was killed in Tucson when her car was swept downstream and submerged after becoming stuck in a rain-swollen creek, the local fire department said.

Hours later, a 76-year-old woman died south of Phoenix after she and her husband tried to drive across a flooded wash. Their car got stuck, and the man was able to reach the shore but his wife was swept away, the Pinal County Sheriff's Office said.

 

(Reporting by David Schwartz; Editing by Daniel Wallis; and Peter Galloway)