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Rain causes floods, road closures, evacuations

Published: Saturday, Oct. 7 2006 12:00 a.m. MDT

Record rainfall led to flash flooding Friday and road closures in areas across the state and prompted the evacuation of about 17 homes in Layton.

According to the National Weather Service, more than a dozen reporting stations recorded record rainfall for the date, with many receiving more than an inch in the 24-hour period. Hanksville even recorded an all-time amount for a 24-hour period, with more than 3 inches.

"It's extensive, but it is the time of year for this," said Alicia Gleave, with the Richfield Communications Center.

Flooding closed potions of U-24 outside of Hanksville, trapping a school bus carrying 20 middle and high school students. As state transportation workers tried to shore up the weakened highway, a rescue team got the students and driver off the road and transported them to a motel and restaurant in nearby Caineville, where they could have a meal and stay the night if necessary, Gleave said.

One trailer home in Blue Valley was washed off its foundation and its occupants were rescued by hovercraft, Gleave said. She said the home was surrounded by three to five feet of water, and rescuers had to traverse nearly 150 yards to reach the two men stranded inside.

Some homes in central Hanksville were threatened because they were "downstream," Gleave said, but no evacuations or sandbagging efforts were needed Friday night.

Residents of homes in neighborhoods along Layton's east bench were evacuated, as well, after water backed up at a storm drain and began "sheeting" across the road, Layton Police Sgt. James Petre said.

Volunteers were filling sandbags throughout the evening, and public works crews were digging trenches to push the water away from the homes. By press time, there were no reports of property damage or injuries.

The evacuated homes were on Fernwood Drive, Fernwood Circle, Snoqualmie Drive and Valley View Drive, although only Valley View remained evacuated Friday evening.

Salt Lake County dispatchers said Big Cottonwood Canyon was closed due to a mudslide on Storm Mountain. Residents and visitors were forced to exit the area via Park City.

Recreation permits were not being issued for many of southern Utah's rivers throughout this morning, pending weather conditions.

Rainwater topped off the Fremont, San Rafael and Dirty Devil rivers, causing them to overflow, said National Weather Service hydrologist Brian McInerney. The Fremont River nearly tripled its volume, rising more than 11 feet.

When rivers rise in such dramatic fashion, "you know you are flooding slot canyons, dry washes, small streams, the whole hydrologic system," McInerney said.

The weather service issued flash flood watches for the area a day before the storm, which had moved north from Baja California, arrived in Utah, McInerney said.

"Our concern was the fact that there were a lot of hikers and backpackers in the area," he said of Wayne County, home to Capitol Reef National Park. Slot canyons also caused concern.

The recent storms also caused significant damage to the trail leading to Rainbow Bridge National Monument, prompting the National Park Service to temporarily close the access route.


Contributing: Associated Press

E-mail: jloftin@desnews.com, wleonard@desnews.com

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