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Utah Travel Headlines

Thursday, August 02, 2007

Thunderstorms, Flood Potential in Southern Utah

This is the "monsoon" season in Utah, with a chance of thunderstorms most days. When rain falls on southern Utah slickrock it quickly channels into ravines and can cause dangerous flooding.

People traveling and recreating in Utah need to watch weather forecasts and avoid areas with flood danger.

A severe storm yesterday caused considerable damage in the Kolob Terrace area of Zion National Park, and around the town of Gunlock near St George. Up to three inches of water fell in the upper Zion area, sending a flash flood down North Creek. Some homes in the Staples subdivision along North Creek were damaged. The Zion River Resort, near Virgin, was evacuated. The Kolob Mountain Road was closed by mud but has now reopened.

The town of Gunlock was briefly isolated when the flood took out a bridge over the Santa Clara River. One lane over the bridge has now been reopened.

"In the 46 years that I've lived here, this is the biggest flood I've ever seen come down the North Creek," said Doug Wilson in this newspaper report. KSL TV also has a good report about the damage.

The Left Fork of North Creek runs through The Subway, which is a popular slot canyon hiking destination. In a slot, there is no way to get out of the canyon quickly in the event of a flood. Had people been in the canyon yesterday they probably would have been killed.

Access to the Subway and similar slots is by permit only and the Park Service monitors weather conditions. However, hikers need to assume responsibility for their own safety and never enter a narrow canyon when there is a change of flooding.

If you plan to hike slots in southern Utah during the next few weeks, use extreme caution and get current info from visitors' centers.

Flash floods usually become less frequent during September - that is an excellent time to hike our canyons.

- Dave Webb


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