The volunteers are phenomenal. They got about half the basement cleared and they're just working like an army. —Russell Greene
SARATOGA SPRINGS — Thousands of volunteers caked in mud worked Sunday to remove sludge and debris from homes after a Saturday night storm caused a flash flood in the Jacob's Ranch neighborhood.
Four homes suffered severe damage with seven other homes receiving some level of water and mud damage. Dozens of other homes suffered landscaping or other exterior property damage, said Saratoga Springs police spokesman Aaron Rosen. At least one house appeared to be a complete loss.
"The one home is probably going to be uninhabitable," he said.
Local church services for many were suspended for the day as friends and neighbors instead filled the neighborhood with shovels, buckets, front-loaders and other supplies.
"We have rallied our people and had hundreds and hundreds who have come to assist," said Ron Edwards, president of the LDS Saratoga Springs Utah South Stake. "It has been absolutely great support and has been phenomenal."
Ben Lundgren, a member of the stake, was stationed at a nearby meetinghouse directing volunteers to various locations and repeating a series of instructions every few minutes as fresh faces arrived.
"It's been a steady string of 20 people every three minutes," he said.
Ian Bayless was at home when the storm hit Saturday. He said it began with dime- to quarter-sized hail, followed by a torrential rain that sent water pouring down nearby Appaloosa Drive.
Bayless said he heard what sounded like a river and looked outside to see a waterfall shooting off of the rock wall on his property and a car floating in a nearby retention pond that was filled to the brim.
"I saw that and then I realized there was something going on," he said. "(Water) was just racing down from this upper road."
Bayless' home was spared, but just a stone's throw away, neighbor's lawns were washed out and basements were filled chest-deep with mud. He and his family were out Sunday to help do what they could. After two hours, he said the volunteers had made noticeable progress.
"We actually have a street now," he said.
Russell Greene's basement was filled 4 to 5 feet high with mud and hailstones after the flood broke through windows and damaged a load-bearing wall.
"It blew a 20-foot hole in the back of the house," he said. "It was just pouring in."
Greene was away from his house when the storm hit, and when he finally saw the damage, he said he was only concerned with his family's safety.
"It's just stuff," he said, looking at his property. "I knew that my three kids and my wife were at the neighbor's house."
At several homes, including Greene's, lines of roughly 50 people passed buckets of sludge to one another to dump into large heaps in drainage ditches or in the center of the street. From there, a fleet of backhoes, dump trucks and other heavy machinery was waiting to haul the mud away.
During one brief break, Greene stood and observed the bustling effort of friends and strangers working to save his home and said he he was humbled by the response from the community.
"The volunteers are phenomenal," he said. "They got about half the basement cleared and they're just working like an army."
The men, woman and children who arrived to help were so eager, in fact, that often organizers had to all but order them to take breaks and accept relief when it arrived. One woman, Vicki McAdams, had treated several injuries — cuts, scrapes and one nail in a foot — and was looking to set up a temporary first aid stand.
"I think they're disappointed when they can't get back to work," she said of her patients. "It's pretty typical of this community."
President Edwards said Sunday's efforts united the congregations of his LDS stake and showed the importance of applying Christian teachings by helping a community in need.
“It has been a uniting feeling to see the Saints rally around their neighbors, whether they are members or not,” he said. “It has strengthened their testimony and indebted them to their neighbors in need. It shows their willingness to share and take care of their brothers."
Lundgren said volunteers also came from other communities to help, including as far away as Provo. Some brought food, trucks, pumps and other equipment.
Homeowner Jeremy Vick got a call Saturday night telling him one of his windows had broken and his basement had flooded, but he didn't expect the amount of damage that the neighborhood received. When he was able to return home, around midnight, he said he was "blown away."
"When I got home I realized this was a catastrophe, a natural disaster beyond belief," he said.
The flood filled Vick's basement, ruining furniture, electronics and his children's toys. But more important, he said, his family and neighbors were safe.
"The thing that's wonderful is there's about 30 kids on this street and no one was hurt."5 comments on this story
Officials believe the flooding may have been exacerbated by mountainside scarring from the Dump Fire in late June. Runoff from the flooding also closed Redwood Road for a brief period Saturday night.
The public has been asked to avoid the affected areas while cleanup efforts are under way.
The cleanup work stopped about 9 p.m. Sunday, but efforts were expected to resume at 7:30 a.m. Monday, Labor Day. The city sent out a tweet saying that volunteers and food would still be needed.
Contributing: Julian Reyes