South Summit residents should brace for more flooding
The Weber River has overrun its banks. With parts of South Summit underwater on Tuesday, officials warned Oakley residents to brace for more flooding in their town this week.
"It’s not over," National Weather Service hydrologist Brian McInerney said in a telephone interview. "We’ll see it [Wednesday] and then we look out toward the weekend. We may have some widespread rainfall and we’re trying to put that into the whole big picture."
A section of State Road 32 flooded Tuesday morning as residents feverishly filled sandbags in Oakley, Weber Canyon and along the Mirror Lake Highway to prevent the water from running into their homes. The flooding began Saturday when the river breached its banks.
Snow in the Uinta Mountains is melting quickly this week.
"In the first week of April we should start reducing the snow pack. What happened was our snow pack did not melt for probably up to three weeks to a month late," McInerney explained.
Temperatures in April and May were unseasonably cool and the precipitation level in Summit County was nearly 130 percent of normal.
"It’s an unusual event this time of year because typically May is the time of year we would get all the melt," Summit County Public Works Administrator Kevin Callahan said. "But it was so cool and then the temperature turned up. We got that nice rain storm and it busted loose."
"Basically, it’s a combination of the heat and the additional moisture that we got over the weekend," Callahan added.
Oakley resident Bruce Obert said he expects the flooding to continue for several days.
"It got too hot too fast," said Obert, wearing rubber boots as he stood in his front yard surrounded by several inches of water. "We had a bit of a late spring and now it’s coming in all at once."
Oakley resident Annie Pieper lives near Pinion Lane, which was one the areas hardest hit by the flooding.
"This is the worst flood we’ve ever seen," Pieper said. "It’s worst than the one in 1983."
Four homes in the Oakley area were evacuated, according to Detective Ron Bridge, a spokesman for the Summit County Sheriff’s Office.
"One was damaged to the point that it was uninhabitable," Bridge said. "It was pushed off the foundation."
But the flooding had caused no serious injuries as of Tuesday afternoon, he said.
About two dozen homes in Weber Canyon have "extensive water damage," Bridge added.
"At 4 o’clock this morning calls started to come into dispatch about the two feet of water that was running down the road," Bridge said. "People are frantic that their homes are going to flood."
Members of the South Summit High School football team were among the roughly 200 people sandbagging Oakley homes. Volunteers had filled nearly 6,000 bags as of Tuesday afternoon.
Debris clogged culverts causing ditches to overflow.
"Crews have been working 24 hours a day to get rid of a lot of the debris. But these flows that we have have been so large that they are flushing this woody debris downstream and they are getting clogged under bridges and things," McInerney said.
A canal in Oakley used to divert water between the Weber and Provo rivers also clogged with trees and brush.
"That really sent a lot of water down the river because they didn’t take the water through the canal," Oakley resident Patrick Cone said.
Officials are working to clear the debris from near a screen in the canal.
"The residents in the area want us to take the water and we want to take it. But this is one of the larger runoffs that have happened in many years," said Steve Cain, facilities and lands manager for the Provo River Water Users Association. "It is a short, fast one and it is acting to clean out the river channel in a way that hasn’t happened for many years. So there is lots of brush and trees and things like that that have come down, and those things have been jamming in the screen in front of the diversion for the canal."
Meanwhile, McInerney said the Oakley area experienced similar flooding in 2005, 1997 and 1993.
"This isn’t anything astronomical or record breaking," he said. "But if your house has water in the basement, it’s terrible. You have a house that’s damaged, you have clean up, furniture is wrecked and for that person, he is experiencing flooding first hand, and it’s bad."