Mudslide pours into UT town

BY DISASTER NEWS NETWORK | SANTAQUIN, UT | September 13, 2002



"The amount of rain that fell wasn't unusual for a summer thunderstorm but the ground was so dry it just ran off."

—Peter Van Hook


A mudslide in the central Utah town of Santaquin Thursday cascaded into houses, pushed vehicles through the walls of homes, and knocked out power.

The slide damaged at least 30 homes.

It began rolling down the mountainside about 7 p.m. Thursday, then filled a canal and widened to some 500 yards. Picking up water and debris, it flowed into the town below.

Townspeople were safely evacuated and there were no injuries.

Broken gas lines ignited at least one fire in the community which firefighters were able to extinguish.

Utah has been stricken with drought, only to be plagued now with flooding after a week of wet weather. In addition to the damaging mudslide, residents in south and central Utah reported minor flooding.

"The amount of rain that fell wasn't unusual for a summer thunderstorm but the ground was so dry it just ran off," said Peter Van Hook, a disaster response and recovery liaison with Church World Service.

Van Hook was making contact with local church representatives in the area to try to assess needs.

The Utah Division of Comprehensive Emergency Management sent a liaison to Santaquin, according to spokesperson Paula Ernstrom.

The storm that triggered the slide also spawned three tornadoes, none of which caused substantial damage.

Santaquin is about 50 miles south of Salt Lake City.

Earlier this week in southwestern Colorado, a mudslide that rolled down a charred hillside near Durango stranded people from their homes.

"The mudslides are really keeping in people who want out of their homes," said the Rev. Guy Orbison of the Church of Christ in Durango. "Thereís nothing really much going on in that department. Thereís been no major problems to homes with mudslides. Itís primarily been keeping people from coming in and out of their homes."

This summer's fires damaged the area so badly that when it rained, water and mud had a clear path to homes and towns.

"(During the fire) we could see the flames from downtown Durango. It came around the mountain and headed toward us before they got it out," Orbison said. "It was quite disconcerting for a while, but the town worked together and all the service organizations did well and the firefighters did the best and they really put out a great effort."


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