Flood and drowning risks remain as water levels peak
Snow is melting at nearly two inches per day
Summit County residents are being urged to avoid recreating near or wading into rivers as the flood and drowning risks are expected to remain high for several more days.
Last week, the National Weather Service issued a flood watch for the Weber River between the Smith and Morehouse Reservoir and Rockport Reservoir. The river in Oakley has remained above flood stage, or 9.2 feet, for most of the week. At this stage, damage could occur to structures and agricultural land adjacent to the river.
The flood watch was scheduled to expire June 9. However, Brian McInerney, a hydrologist with the National Weather Service and a Park City resident, warned “we still have really high and out-of-bank flows.” He said snow is melting about 1.8 inches to 2 inches per day.
McInerney said a cold front is expected to move into the area this weekend, signaling a turning point for the conditions of the river. But, he added, the flood and drowning risks will remain.
“We are running out of snow and that lack of snow will cause the river to decline,” McInerney said. “The change we will see will come with the cold front and then after the heat comes back next week, we won’t have enough snow to make high flows like we are seeing now. It won’t be all at once, though, and we will still have really high flows.”
As the snowpack melt tapers off, the river will slowly return to its base flow, McInerny said. He said that will likely take most of June and early July to occur.
Chris Crowley, Summit County’s emergency manager, said water is not only spilling over the river’s banks, but also the spillway at Rockport Reservoir.
“We know there are residents that are experiencing flooding, mostly from the high water rise, and we will have an increase in flow,” Crowley said. “But we have already taken mitigating steps and public works has dumped sand in Oakley and Woodland.”
Full and empty sandbags are available at the Summit County Public Works Department, located at 1755 South Hoytsville Road, in Coalville.
Tuesday, more than 20 team members of the Sheriff’s Office’s SWAT Team helped fill sandbags in Oakley and Coalville. Lt. Andrew Wright said the SWAT Team trains twice a month and based on the needs of the community, took the opportunity to provide the service as a training exercise.
“We knew there were residents that could take advantage of that service and, based on the risk for flooding, we had an all-hands-on-deck effort and utilized our working inmate crews,” Wright said. “They spent about five hours filling pallets of sandbags.”
Wright said Summit County’s Search and Rescue crews also conducted swift-water training on Wednesday.
“It’s dangerous out there right now and, while we hope we don’t have to perform any of these kinds of rescues, they wanted to be prepared because we know the danger is there,” Wright said. “It is easy to get sucked into this water and we don’t want any children, adults or pets getting swept away.”
McInerney said seven water-related fatalities have been reported statewide already this spring and encouraged everyone to “just stay away.”
“You can always replace structures, but you can’t replace a kid and that’s the message of the day for this runoff year,” he said. “The force of the river is so fast and the volumes are so big. The whole idea is to just stay away. Don’t have any picnics next to the rivers and that will alleviate a lot of the problems.”
For more information about flooding in the area, sign up for National Weather Service email alerts at http://www.wrh.noaa.gov/slc/ or check the county website at http://www.co.summit.ut.us. To report flooding problems, call 435-336-3600.
Meredith Reed was elected to a two-year term as chair of the Summit County Democratic Party and said she sees an opportunity to ride the so-called blue wave that saw a Democratic surge nationally and within the state.