Utah prepares for floods

After an excessively wet late winter and early spring, residents in Utah are gearing up for more possible flooding.


A tornado destroyed the Baker\'s Chapel church building and van. (DNN photo by Heather Moyer)
Credit: Disaster News Network

After an excessively wet late winter and early spring, residents in Utah are gearing up for more possible flooding.

A round of heavy rain last week flooded several homes and acres of farmland around northern Utah’s Cache County and Box Elder County.

“The rivers were already running pretty steady because of the snow melt, the rain is what pushed the rivers over the edge,” said Derek Jensen, public information office for the Utah Department of Public Safety (DPS). He added that the ground was so saturated that some homes had flood damage due to groundwater seepage.

In Cedar Hills, a town some 35 miles southeast of Salt Lake City, residents of one neighborhood had to evacuate last Thursday due to a mudslide behind their homes. Four families are still unable to return home due to the slide, which has not yet compromised the structures but is resting up against the back of several homes.

“The landslide moved very quickly last Thursday, but then slowed over the weekend,” said Conrad Hildebrandt, the Cedar Hills city manager. “It hasn’t moved much at all since then, but we’re still monitoring it to figure out when it’ll be safe to move it.”

Hildebrandt said the state geological survey advised the town to not place any heavy equipment on top of the slide because of the remaining danger. The weather forecast is not helping the situation either.

“It’s supposed to rain today and the next three days, so we are very concerned,” Hildebrandt said. “The worst-case scenario would be really bad, with the whole hillside coming down. We are monitoring it closely.”

Several dams around the state are stressed as well, with operators having to release some water in order to keep the pressure down. Releases from the Cutler Dam in the northern part of the state caused some significant agricultural flooding, said Jansen. The Pineview Reservoir in Weaver County is also releasing water as well.

A flood watch has been issued for several northern Utah counties for the weekend, as well as for the Santa Clara River in southwestern Utah. Flooding along the Santa Clara River severely damaged homes in St. George, Santa Clara, Brookside, Bloomington, Toquerville and Enterprise back in January. Residents there recently formed an interfaith recovery group to help families repair and rebuild homes.

Jensen of the Utah DPS said this type of flooding has not been an issue for years because of a severe drought across the state. “Typically we’re worried about there not being enough snow this time each year and not enough water in the reservoirs,” he explained. “This year’s the exact opposite; we’ve got more than enough water – and too much in some areas.”

That means the state is doing all it can to prepare resources and make the public aware of the dangers, he added. “Everyone is definitely on alert right now for spring flooding that we anticipate will continue for some time.”

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