MURRAY — Calling it the largest flow of water in Little Cottonwood Creek since 1983, the mayors of several Salt Lake counties stood side-by-side Monday afternoon warning residents that flooding could continue in parts of the valley for a few more days.
But the group also emphasized that emergency crews from all jurisdictions are working jointly to protect residents. Cottonwood Heights Mayor Kelvyn Cullimore said the efforts will hopefully make the entire incident "forgettable" in just a few days.
Their biggest fear was Little Cottonwood Creek would once again hit its highest point about midnight and flood.
As of Monday afternoon, Salt Lake County Mayor Peter Corroon said the total damage was still being tallied, but there was significant damage to some condos in Holladay and minor damage to homes, apartments and businesses in Sandy, Cottonwood Heights, Murray and Midvale.
Emergency responders at Little Cottonwood Creek were forced to remove a 15- to 20-foot-long pedestrian bridge in Little Cottonwood Canyon near 5500 East, which spans the creek and leads to many popular hiking trails.
Debris, such as tree limbs and actual trees, were getting caught under the bridge and clogging the rushing water so much, that the sides of the creek bed started to erode as the water created its own path.
"It's literally turning into a dam," said Unified Police Lt. Don Hutson. "There was so much water spilling over it last night and so much debris, the water eroded all around it and created a new river."
Once the bridge was removed Monday afternoon, however, the debris was so clogged that it didn't budge, forcing crews to find another way to get the debris flowing.
A nearby power private power plant, about the size of a one-car garage, was in serious jeopardy of being lost Monday and falling into the river as its banks were eroded away, said Salt Lake County Sheriff Jim Winder. Loss of the plant, however, would not affect any homeowners.
At the mouth of Little Cottonwood Canyon, voluntary evacuations were in place in a neighborhood threatened by floods, Hutson said.
There were also concerns about North Little Cottonwood Road near the mouth of the canyon. The creek had cut 20 to 30 feet into the mountain below the road. Officials were evaluating whether the road would have to be closed.
Further downstream in the Sandy area, 16 homes suffered some flooding though none suffered serious damage, according to a Sandy official.
Even further downstream, flooding was a worry at the old Black Angus restaurant, near 1300 East and 7300 South. The rapidly moving water was compromising the safety of the foundation of the vacant building's outdoor patio.
"There is significant deterioration of the bank along that west side of the structure," said Unified Fire Capt. Clint Smith. "There's the potential for collapse for that."
A cement slab was left hanging over the water after half the patio collapsed. If the entire patio collapses, the roof is secured to the main building and may pull part of that structure down with it, he said.
Extra sandbags were being placed along the banks of an apartment complex and an assisted living center near 1340 East and 7400 South.
Big Cottonwood Creek was causing fewer problems, mostly because workers were able to keep the debris fields more clear. However, it did cause serious damage to about six condos west of the old Cottonwood Mall, leaving four to five feet of water in the units, said Holladay City Manager Randy Fitz.
In Murray, three lanes of State Street near 5100 South, just outside Murray City Park, were closed about 6 a.m. due to the overflowing Little Cottonwood Creek that runs through the park. The water on State Street was a foot deep in some spots, Murray Fire Marshal Russ Groves said.
The park was also closed until further notice because of swift currents and water with debris throughout the park. All sporting events, including those at Ken Price Ballpark, were also temporarily discontinued.
In addition to State Street, Vine Street — one block west of State — had flooding problems. The waters have come right up to a business complex that includes a bank and the Murray Boys and Girls Club, 244 E. Vine St. (5100 South).
One house near 5100 South and 300 East had 2 feet of water in it, Groves said.
"My mom called me about 4:30 (a.m.) and said 'Bring trucks,' " said Elaine Sharp, whose mother lives in the home. "When she said come, I came and didn't even expect to see this."
Parts of Murray Park itself were under 4 to 5 feet of water, Groves said. "Hopefully, it's not going to get any worse today."
City officials encouraged residents to stay away from Murray Park until the flooding situation was resolved.
In Midvale, assistant city manager Laurie Harvey said a state of emergency was declared about 9 p.m. Sunday, activating the city's emergency operations center. Salt Lake County also activated its emergency operations center as did Cottonwood Heights.
Midvale Mayor JoAnn Seghini encouraged people to clean debris out of their canals, which was causing problems Monday.
Cullimore called the work emergency crews were doing a "herculean effort."
The National Weather Service canceled the flood warning for Little Cottonwood Creek at the mouth of the canyon, but continued it for the area between the mouth of the canyon and the Jordan River.
Salt Lake County Flood Control head Scott Baird said the EOC near 3500 South and 900 West was receiving updated weather reports every 20 minutes. He said the only other creek or river in the county that had potential for flooding as of Monday was Little Willow Creek in Draper.
The floods "were brought on fairly quickly" due to the warm temperatures that started Saturday along the Wasatch Front, combined with heavy rainfall, and a late spring, meaning there was still a lot of unmelted snow in the mountains.
Approximately 500 volunteers helped with sandbagging and flood control efforts Sunday. Volunteers on Monday were asked to go to the Salt Lake County Public Works complex, 604 W. 6960 South, to help fill sandbags. A call for volunteers was also being made at Cottonwood Heights Elementary School, 2415 E. Bengal (7530 South) Blvd. Carroon said it wasn't necessary for volunteers to call ahead, just show up at the school to either help fill sandbags or collect the ones you need.
He also encouraged residents not to call 911 to report flooding unless it's an emergency. The number they should call for flooding updates is 801-743-7280 or go to www.slcoem.org.
Also Monday, the Summit County Sheriff's Office reported flooding along the Weber River in Oakley and Peoa. Public Works officials were responding with heavy equipment and sandbags, but no structures were immediately threatened, according to the sheriff's office.
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