Northern Utah residents and emergency officials, from the Idaho border to Utah County, hope to see the sun this morning and hope it brings a reprieve from the drenching the region received Thursday that caused rivers and canals to jump their banks and flood homes, fields and roads. No deaths or serious injuries were reported.
"We're excited" about the sunny forecast, Cache County Sheriff's Capt. Kim Cheshire said. "We're getting a break."
Emergency crews anxiously watched northern Utah rivers and reservoirs late Thursday. Some were expected to peak by midnight, then subside. The most worrisome spot early today was Hyrum Dam, which officials said might yet overflow.
Action taken weeks before to clear waterways of debris and massive volunteers efforts to sandbag the banks of swelling creeks and canals were credited with keeping the damage minimal.
At the northeast end of Utah County's Cedar Hills, emergency workers kept an overnight watch on a hillside where a large slab of earth was moving toward townhouses whose occupants were evacuated Thursday night. By 8 p.m., the mud had moved about 6 feet. By 9:15 p.m., it had moved another 2 feet, Cedar Hills Councilman Jim Parker said.
"It's anybody's guess at this point in time," Parker said. "It'll depend on the weather."
Residents of eight townhouses were evacuated. Gas was turned off and workers were deciding whether to disconnect power to the homes.
"I know at least one (family) is with family and others have been put up in hotels by the builder," Parker said. "These are very new townhomes."
A small amount of dirt, gravel and rocks were trickling into the townhomes' backyards.
Other homes in the area are not affected. Mudslides have occurred in the hills in that area of town about five years ago, Parker said.
While rain fell nearly statewide, Cache County was the hardest hit. More than 2 inches fell in a 24-hour period in some places, resulting in nearly every community experiencing some flooding, with the worst of the waters hitting the small town of Nibley, just south of Logan.
Floodwaters from the Blacksmith Fork River forced the closure of U-165, a north-south thoroughfare that provides access from Logan to Hyrum and Paradise. The river jumped its banks, gulped down farm fields leaving horses with drenched, matted fur cornered into the edge of one soaked field and swallowed the road.
The river, which looked more like a wet blanket than the normal low-water creek it is later in the season, surrounded the home of Adela Fuentes. She and her four children watched from their front porch and windows as volunteers trudged through the front yard, covering red tulips with gray sandbags to divert the brown floodwater.
Approximately 18 inches of water had seeped into her basement, Fuentes said, with her 9-year-old daughter, Jessica, acting as an interpreter. "I hope nothing happens to us," she said. "This is our only place. I don't know where we would go. This is bad luck."
At least several dozen other homes throughout the county had flooding problems, ranging from a few inches of water in cellars to levels up to the foundation line, said Cheshire, who headed the emergency command offices in Logan.
The Blacksmith Fork River was expected to peak around 10 p.m. Thursday, and the Logan was to hit its high mark near midnight, Cheshire said.
Richmond, north of Logan, was another major trouble spot, Cheshire said. A culvert broke and flooded three homes. Soon after, volunteers placed 700 sandbags to direct the water. Late Thursday, a canal overflowed its banks.
U-23 along the west side of the county flooded in places, Cheshire said, and had been cut through to form an escape channel for water.
Elsewhere, a bridge above Avon in the far southeast of Cache County, washed out. Consequently, the Porcupine Dam Road was closed indefinitely, and Cheshire's team was monitoring debris in the tributary, which feeds into the swollen Little Bear River.
Firefighters from eight of the 12 volunteer fire departments in the county were called to sandbag, pump water and direct volunteers, said Jon Keller, the assistant Cache County fire chief. "They took the whole day off without pay or wages to help their citizens," he said. "This is just one more thing they respond to."
Additionally, nearly 1,000 volunteers, including inmates from the Cache County Jail, were used throughout Cache Valley and northern Utah to stem overflowing rivers, creeks, streams, canals and irrigation ditches. Many of them waded through thigh-deep, frigid water in flip-flops to reinforce sandbag walls that flows quickly outpaced.
"It was study for finals or save someone's house," said Tiffany Pack, a senior at Utah State University, working with mud on her shirt.
The mood among the volunteers in Paradise was friendly and lighthearted, even as they worked to bail out people stranded in their front yards and vehicles parked in ditches.
Skylar Scheele, 5, splashed around in her rain boots and sweat pants while her mother worked with other volunteers to keep water out of a corner house.
The Cache County chapter of the American Red Cross provided about 150 sandwiches and drinks to volunteers in Richmond. As of press time, Mark Fishburn, the Red Cross team leader, had not relocated any families due to flooding. He did not expect to, either, he said, because most families had relatives or friends who could take them in for a night or two.
The next hardest-hit area was Brigham City, where the usually tiny Box Elder Creek overflowed its banks about 4:30 a.m., forcing two families from their homes and flooding others. City officials received reports of up to seven homes damaged by flooding.
City officials declared a state of emergency, but by late in the day they were getting the upper hand.
"We're trying to fight the battle," said Jim Buchanan, Brigham City's director of emergency management. "We're taking back the creek."
After the rains subsided and about 1,000 people, including city and county workers and volunteers, filled and placed 20,000 sandbags, water in Mayor's Pond, a detention pond sitting between the Mantua Reservoir and Brigham City, began to drop.
That was a relief for Buchanan and Brigham City Mayor Lou Ann Christensen, who had a plan in place to evacuate the residents near the pond if the water came close to breaching.
Gov. Jon Huntsman Jr. called Christensen while Department of Public Safety Commissioner Robert Flowers paid a personal visit.
Their talk was brief, but Huntsman gave Christensen encouragement, she said. He promised to visit Brigham City today if problems increased overnight. Emergency personnel planned to keep a vigil over the creek, Mayor's Pond and Mantua reservoir during that time.
Brigham City, despite having a state of emergency, is actually patting itself on the back. Starting in the middle of January, the city orchestrated a cleanup in which debris was cleared over a 6 1/2-mile stretch of the creek bed, Buchanan said.
Parents-to-be Cade and Janie Palmer were residents in a basement apartment until floodwaters breached a retaining wall built after the 1983 high-water year and flowed through their back yard and into their stairwell. The force of the water broke the door, hinges and all, from the jamb about 5:15 a.m.
The Palmers scrambled to salvage their photo albums, a banjo and a harmonica. They had to rescue a rabbit, two parakeets and two tortoises from the water, Janie Palmer said.
She said she's glad her baby isn't due until July. But the flood still came at a bad time.
This week is finals week at Weber State University. And she hopes her professors understand.
A piece of cruel irony happened last night before the Palmers went to bed while rain was falling and Chad said jokingly, "Let's put everything on the highest shelf."
Elsewhere in the state, quick action by officials in Cedar Fort minimized flood damage in the Utah County community that suffered extensive damage last year. Cedar Fort volunteer fire chief Mike Penovich said just two homes near the town center were impacted by this week's flooding, and minimally at that. A confined basement area of one home was flooded with one to two inches of water, and the window well of another was damaged.
In Salt Lake County, reports of a man being struck by lightning turned out to be non-threatening.
Just before 5 p.m., thunderstorms sent a lively bolt to the ground near 6200 W. 2700 South in West Valley City. Two men witnessed the charge and "felt something in the ground afterwards," said West Valley City Fire Capt. Ron Rigby.
No one was injured, but one man requested to be taken to the hospital to be evaluated.Comment on this story
In southern Utah, residents and officials anxiously watched water levels rise on the Virgin and Santa Clara rivers.
"It looks like muddy chocolate milk, but we haven't had any flooding reported in the county yet," said Washington County Commissioner Jim Eardley. "I think we're in pretty good shape."
Both the Santa Clara and the Virgin were running high, but the flow was nowhere near the levels reported during January's devastating floods, said Dean Cox, Washington County's emergency services director."We want to caution people to be very careful around the water, though," said Cox. "As the weather begins to get nicer and people start heading outdoors, they need to remember that the waterways can be very dangerous."