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Saratoga Springs makes a call for more volunteers Monday in flood-damaged neighborhood (+video)

Published: Monday, Sept. 3 2012 9:04 a.m. MDT

Volunteers help Saratoga Springs flooding victims remove mud and water from their homes in Saratoga Springs Sunday, Sept. 2, 2012.

Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News

SARATOGA SPRINGS — City officials are still organizing efforts and calling for more community volunteers to spend a couple of hours Monday to help clear basements, yards and streets of muddy debris after Saturday’s flash flood in the Jacob’s Ranch neighborhood, just off of Redwood Road.

The city is asking for crews to start showing up at 9 a.m., and throughout the day at staggered times on Labor Day. Details about where to park and suggestions about what to bring can be found on the city's website.

What would normally be a three-hour worship service on Sunday for members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in Saratoga Springs, was shortened to one hour when church and city leaders encouraged the community — in at least three stakes — to go home right away and change from their ties and dresses to boots and jeans.

City and church leaders then fired out a bevy of instructions on social media pages about when and where volunteers should meet for their designated shift. Allocationg and managing shifts was made easier because the city is already split into tightly defined stake and ward boundaries, all of which have their own unofficial social media pages to help spread news in seconds.

More than 5,000 responded, according to the city's website.

Those who weren’t carrying shovels and buckets into the flood ravaged neighborhood, spent their efforts on gathering food and water for several relief stations that were quickly set up throughout the neighborhood.

While most volunteers ran shovels and stood in about 90-foot-long bucket brigade lines, dozens of community members braved a turn at the head of those bucket lines. They ducked in and out of muddy window wells where they stood knee- and often waist-deep in near-freezing water temperatures to scoop buckets full of the sludge that had rushed into, and filled up, several basements the night before.

Hail, still the size of pearls even after sitting overnight, encrusted the top inch of the murky slush, making it too cold for most volunteers to spend much time wading in while they worked.

Many, if not most, water pumps at the scene of disaster had difficulty removing the water with any consistency because of problems getting clogged too often with ice, sticks and the clay-based silt — and other floating household debris.

Eventually, most volunteer teams at various homes reverted to the slow-and-arduous but sure-and-steady tactic of the five-gallon bucket brigade.

After splashing and hefting its way through the hands of about 40 men and women, each 35-pound bucket found its way to the street where it was dumped and sent back to the window well in a separate "empty-bucket line," primarily occupied with younger teens.

Almost a dozen volunteers rumbled up and down the streets for most of the afternoon in small and large tractors, hauling away mud and filling up several waste bins with flood-damaged furniture.

One homeowner, whose home is located on the subdivision’s west-most edge and whose home was one of the first two hit, said her husband noticed the gushing stream rush toward their house the night before. It rushed from the slopes of the rolling, fire-damaged foothills. She said she remembers her husband telling their children to run upstairs, and then he grabbed whatever he could carry.

After the family “felt” it hit the back of their home, she said she immediately called 911 and told dispatchers she and her family were “trapped in a river” that surrounded their property, which force was strong enough that it wouldn’t allow them to escape their house in a vehicle from their driveway.

Saratoga Springs volunteers help for flood relief

Volunteers in Saratoga Springs offer thousands of helping hands in disaster relief, after flash flood, Sept. 2, 2012.

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