Jeffrey D. Allred, Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News
SALT LAKE CITY — Another overnight storm threatening more snow in the mountains added to already ample fears that flooding could be widespread and problematic this spring.
Flooding hotspots identified by weather watchers include Cache County in the communities of Wellsville and Hyrum, in Morgan County, western Weber County communities, northern Davis County and Salt Lake County.
Multiple cities and counties have taken steps to prepare for flooding. In Salt Lake County, crews have filled 5,000 sandbags and 100,000 sandbags have been stockpiled. Another 100,000 have been ordered. An estimated 400 tons of large, angular rocks are on hand to be placed in streams as part of flood control efforts.
Jeff Niermeyer, director of Salt Lake City's public utilities department, said 13,000 sandbags have been filled to date, with another 150,000 ready to be filled if needed.
Although the latest storm was not welcome, Niermeyer said pre-flooding preparation and stream flows at City and Emigration creeks leads him to believe there is no risk of flooding — yet.
"We are well below flood stage," he said.
But the city issued a news release Wednesday that said groundwater has begun to make it's way into some Salt Lake residents' basements through openings in basement walls and floors. The city is asking residents who are experiencing groundwater intrusion to contact public utilities.
“Our teams are monitoring groundwater levels throughout affected areas, and are working to track the extent of the problem of groundwater intrusion,” Niermeyer said.
Crews have dedicated a lot of time to clearing wood and debris from the streams and two debris basins on City Creek have been excavated in anticipation of a big runoff.
The city is also working with west-side residents who could experience basement flooding due to groundwater saturation in the soils.
Elsewhere in Utah County, water managers are hoping for a long dry spell — and soon.
"As you can imagine, we have our eyes open and are on top of the situation," said Keith Denos, general manager of the Provo River Users Association.
Denos said instead of seeing some runoff by now, the mountains are continuing to accumulate snowpack, with the SNOTEL (SNOwpack TELemetry) site at Mount Timpanagos at the highest level ever recorded.
"We need to get hot soon and start melting some of that low elevation snow, instead of having all the snow at all the elevations come down at once," Denos said.
Water at Deer Creek and Jordanelle reservoirs is being released into the Provo River, which dumps into Utah Lake. That lake, though, is overfull, according to Denos, so the gates allowing lake water into the Jordan River are open.
"It is a dance we have to do," Denos said. "Utah Lake is overfull, Jordan River is flowing at capacity and we have to be concerned about what we are putting into the Provo River because we're already adding to Utah Lake."
Denos said there is a combined available capacity at Deer Creek and Jordanelle for 105,000 acre feet of water, but the association anticipates twice that amount to work its way through the river system over the next few months.
"It is a concern to have to route that amount of water."
The association will be meeting with a variety of city officials on Thursday about the snowpack situation, as well as the Provo River commissioner.
Denos cautions that a high snowpack doesn't always equate to flooding — most of that depends on the weather in the weeks to come.
Last year, the area had below average snowpack and there was flooding.
"It was really strange and it caught everybody by surprise. If we have warm weather, with it progressively getting warm, it will not necessarily flood. If it keeps cold like we are doing, and stays cold for another month, that is going to be a reason to be concerned."
Randy Julander with the U.S. Natural Resources Conservation Service, prepared an analysis of this year's snowpack as of Wednesday and compared it to May 20, 1983 — the same month and year that a sudden spike in temperatures turned State Street in Salt Lake City into a river and the state experienced millions of dollars in flood damage.
The analysis shows how much snow needs to melt to reach the same snowpack levels recorded during that time frame, with the Timpanogos divide site having to melt a half inch a day to bring it down to 1983 levels, according to Julander.
"So every storm that adds to these numbers takes us the wrong direction," he said. "Every cool day between now and May 20 preserves what we currently have. Every day that it is hot, takes us the right direction."
— Amy Joi O'Donoghue Twitter: amyjoi16
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