Floods hit Utah: Cache, Brigham City are among hardest-hit areas

Published: Friday, April 29 2005 12:00 a.m. MDT

Dale Wiscomb, left in orange hat, and other volunteers place sandbags Thursday in an effort to stop the flooding of homes from Box Elder Creek in Brigham City.

August Miller, Deseret Morning News

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.

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