Flood and drowning risks remain as spring runoff melts
County issues warning about high river flows across northern Utah
May 26, 2017
Greg DuBois grew up in Park City and has been fishing rivers in the area for most of his 27 years. However, a recent solo-fishing trip to the lower Provo River nearly cost him his life.
At around 8 a.m. Sunday, May 14, DuBois, who now lives in Ogden, set out to do some fly-fishing in an area he considered himself very familiar with. Located downstream from the Deer Creek Reservoir, the Lower Provo River flows down Provo Canyon.
"I found a spot on the river and saw how high it was and how rapidly the river was moving and even walked down from where I usually fish," DuBois said. "I found a section that looked like it was flowing smoothly, but the current underneath that was just ripping and I didn't take that into account. I was only two feet, max, from the bank and thought I was being safer than I needed to be."
DuBois said "a little puff of current" swept him off of his feet and carried him more than 50 yards down the river. He described the ordeal as "pretty terrifying."
"It happened so fast. After I fell over I was in the water and was wearing my wading belt and I think that is really the one thing that saved me," DuBois said. "I was able to just swim for my life for the shore. Near the bank I started bouncing off the rocks and trees. My whole thing is I thought I was playing it safe even though I was up there fishing alone. But even playing it safe it is still just really dangerous out there right now."
On Thursday, Summit County issued an alert informing residents that high river flows will continue for a number of waterways across the northern outlook area. It stated: Keep children and pets away from these dangerous, fast-flowing waterways. They will be rapidly swept away if they fall in."
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Chris Crowley, Summit County's emergency manager, said fast-moving, cold water is extremely dangerous. He said debris create an added risk because it can be easy for someone to get tangled up and be unable to free themselves.
"Pets and children are the most susceptible to being swept away very quickly in very shallow waters," Crowley said. "A woman recently died in the Salt Lake Valley trying to rescue her pet out of a small creek. I would just strongly suggest everyone be safe."
Crowley also encouraged homeowners who live in a floodplain to be aware that there is constant potential for water around their property and they are responsible for protecting it.
"If they (homeowners) see water rise, they should definitely take steps to mitigate it by calling a contractor, doing the work themselves to sandbag or to move debris. That's one of the most important things is to keep an eye on any drainage or creeks they may have close by," Crowley said. "If they are being flooded by debris, if they can remove it safely. Otherwise they can call Summit County Public Works and they can come and help clear debris out of the water."
Homeowners who need sandbags can go to the Public Works building and pick up 20 filled bags, free of charge. Summit County has about 52,000 empty bags that can also be filled if needed.
Crowley emphasized the flood stage has not been reached yet. He said he is working closely with the National Weather Service to monitor flows, but current conditions are reminiscent of those in 1983 when rampant flooding took place across the state.
"Conditions are similar, but we don't have the exact conditions because the snowpack in the lower elevations has already melted off," Crowley said. "But we should always be cautious and aware of flooding, especially if you live in the floodplain." if you livein the floodplain und their property and they are responsible for protecting it. day coalville is the last one
The existing floodplain maps are still recognized. However, new floodplain maps have been drafted and are available for public comment. The new maps will be adopted in 2018 and those who are considered in a floodplain will be required to get government-regulated flood insurance.
While conditions have somewhat calmed down this week, DuBois said he wanted to share his story to help educate others about the risks because he considers himself lucky to be alive.
"I thought I was being overly cautious and I thought I knew what I was doing. But I took the river for granted and shouldn't have went alone," DuBois said. "I hope people don't think this guy is an idiot because I realize I made some poor mistakes. But there have already been deaths and its no joke right now. This year is different than any other year and people need to approach rivers with caution."
To view the current floodplain maps, go to http://msc.fema.gov/portal and type Summit in the search window. The updated maps, which will be adopted in August 2018, are available at http://fema.maps.arcgis.com/home/index.html. Current flood watch conditions can be accessed at https://ut.water.usgs.gov/flood/.