Tuesday, January 11, 2005

Deluge in Dixie



Perhaps you may have heard by now of the flooding in the St. George area. One life has already been lost, and several homes have been washed away. In some areas water, sewer, and natural gas lines have been broken. Some homes have had flood water coming up in their toilets and drains.

The general area of the flooding is in the proximity or two rivers in the area, the Santa Clara River, and the Virgin River. (See adjacent graphic).

Two reservoirs, (Gunlock and Enterprise) that last summer were nearly bone dry, are now filled to capacity, and overflowing their spillways. Heavy rains have fallen in the last 5 days. One reporting station on the West Side of the Pine Valley Mountains reported a storm total of 22.5 inches of rain in the last 5 days.

One man was swept away after his car had become disabled in the floodwaters. He climbed out of his car and stood on top of it. Suddenly a large wave overcame him and he was swept away. His body has yet to be found. A female passenger was also in the car. She remained inside, and was later rescued.

A state of emergency has been declared in several communities. All hands are devoted to flood control efforts. In St. George, all city employees are on flood duty. The Army National Guard has been called out to assist the local governments. Utah's Governor, John Huntsman Jr. has declared the area a disaster area, and was to view the damage by air earlier today.

Numerous volunteers have been organized to help fill sandbags to protect homes in areas most vulnerable to flood damage. Today it was announced that all Washington County Schools will be closed.

To the consternation of public safety officials, several people insist on playing in the floodwaters. When the adventurers get into trouble, valuable time and resources have to be diverted to rescuing these individuals who not only endanger themselves, but endanger the lives of rescue crews as well.

The good news is that the storm should be clearing out tomorrow, and there should be several days of warm and dry weather. It often takes a day or two for the floodwaters to receded, even after the rain stops. Hopefully it will not get too warm, which would melt snow that has fallen in the midlevel elevations, which would keep the water levels in the river high.

More good news is that family members living in the Santa Clara are all right. Their homes are far enough away from (and above) the swollen rivers that they have not experienced flood damage. The cousins will be out of school tomorrow -- For the kids, I would guess, that's good news too!

You can read more about the St. George flooding at these locations:

The Spectrum
- The Deseret Morning News
- The Salt Lake Tribune

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