The Park Record editorial, August 21-24, 2010 | ParkRecord.com

The Park Record editorial, August 21-24, 2010

City storm drains pass Thursday's mini-tsunami test

Thursday’s sudden storm that cleared as quickly as it appeared left muddy puddles and a kitchen sink full of drenched construction workers but caused no major damage in Summit County. It could have been a different story.

Park City may have been spared because Mother Nature’s fury was focused elsewhere, but the lack of carnage is also the result of hard-won experience and good planning. The city’s public works crew has worked to address past problem areas like Daly Canyon by installing catch basins and bigger storm drains. And the city also closely regulates construction sites to minimize unexpected runoff and erosion.

As Utahns have learned, lack of vigilance when it comes to channeling rainwater and snowmelt can lead to tragedy and expensive loss of property. A canal failure in Logan in 2009 killed three members of a family whose home was demolished by a torrent of mud. Elsewhere in the state, whole neighborhoods have been buried in debris due to poor engineering along nearby waterways.

But there is only so much even a top-notch public works department can do. Property owners must shoulder some of the responsibility for clearing gutters and drains and maintaining watchful eyes on retaining walls, etc. A careless neighbor’s landscaping castoffs on top of a storm drain or an innocent kid’s dam project across a creek can end up costing thousands of dollars in damage.

Summit County residents may not have to worry too much about hurricanes or tornadoes, but the vagaries of nature can be just as extreme. The high-desert topography is vulnerable to drought, flash floods and wildfires. After weeks of unbroken sunshine, the storm that washed through Park City and most of northern Utah on Thursday was a reminder that Mother Nature can throw a tantrum any time she wants to. Residents, though, can ensure the damage is kept to a minimum by taking preventative measures.