Summit County may see peak water flow Friday
Ernest Oriente paused for a second in his knee-high boots, shorts and T-shirt, shovel in hand, to watch as another car passed through the giant puddle in front of his house on Cutter Lane, throwing up spray on either side.
It was an atypical Friday evening activity, but he, his wife Patricia Oriente and neighbor Christy Bishop were sloshing around in the floodwater trying to dig a ditch across the Orientes’ front lawn to convince the water to rejoin the canal it had overrun.
“I’ve lived here 21 years and I’ve never seen it this bad,” Ernest Oriente said. “Either the culvert is too small or it’s blocked up.”
Water was flowing onto the street where the bike path crosses Cutter Lane and a culvert diverts a canal under the roadway. There was too much water for the culvert to handle, hence the new lake in the Orientes’ front yard.
Others may encounter similar situations as flooding season ramps up around the county, but Emergency Manager Chris Crowley said this season should be “business as usual.”
“We had high snowpack, over 100 percent, but the melt has been pretty standard,” Crowley said. “Overall, we’re in a normal cycle.”
But he cautioned parents and pet owners to keep a careful watch.
“Flooding or not, be careful with your kids and pets around all of our streams and drainages and culverts, even in the wetland areas,” he said. “The streams and culverts are running fast and cold and they’re dangerous.”
He said the Cutter Lane flooding was due to the saturation of nearby wetlands from a rainstorm a couple nights before coupled with the accelerating snowmelt as temperatures increased.
“Looking at it from a broad perspective, I’m sure some folks are experiencing higher-than-normal saturation or maybe even some minor flooding on their properties or their water table is much higher, but overall I think our melt is fairly consistent,” he said.
Brian McInerney is a hydrologist for the National Weather Service based in Salt Lake City who studies the water flow in the Colorado River Basin. He said an unusually wet May, along with the higher-than-average snowpack and the almost constant barrage of storms this year have contributed to push back the snowmelt by about two weeks.
As the weather warmed and skies cleared, rivers all around the state started to rise significantly, McInerney said, with “all sorts of out-of-bank flows.”
Though the cool weather this past weekend slowed the snowmelt, McInerney said the next week will bring clearer skies and warmer temperatures.
And as the sun rises higher in the sky with the approaching summer solstice, the snow that is still being held in the tops of the state’s peaks will begin to melt quickly.
He anticipates peak flows to hit around Friday, and that’s when “we’ll see if we have enough snow left” for rivers and streams to run over their banks.
His office anticipates the Provo River getting back to over-bank status this Friday, the Weber River to run “really high” with some water overrunning its banks — though not to the point of property damage — and closing in on flood levels of 800 cubic feet per second in Little Cottonwood Canyon.
“While we probably won’t have widespread damaging flooding,” McInerney said, “the rivers and streams around the state will be the most dangerous places in Utah.”
After one fatality and one near-fatality this year, McInerney also advised parents to monitor their kids and keep pets away from streams.
“The water is so numbingly cold and swift, it’s two minutes before hypothermia sets in and you’re at the will of the river,” he said.
As of Monday, the National Weather Service had flood advisories in Uinta County for the Green River near Jensen and the Duchesne River near Randlett.
Those interested in seeing more data can visit cbrfc.noaa.gov/.
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