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Uintah County residents clean up after back-to-back flash floods

Published: Thursday, Aug. 21 2014 7:11 p.m. MDT

Updated: Thursday, Aug. 21 2014 7:11 p.m. MDT

MAESER, Uintah County — Homeowners have a mess on their hands after back-to-back flash floods tore through their subdivision this week.

Flood waters carrying mud and debris hit the Cedar Ridge subdivision hard Tuesday evening after a brief but intense thunderstorm pounded the area with rain. The pattern repeated itself Wednesday, when a storm dumped more than an inch of water on the area in about an hour.

"The last couple times (the water) came through, it's been crazy," said Sloan Ulibarri, who moved into a home in the subdivision about a year ago.

An army of volunteers showed up — almost as fast as the flood waters hit — to fill sandbags and help protect people's homes.

"I lucked out on mine because of the community," Ulibarri said. "They saved my home, and once again I thank each and every one of them."

Uintah County Community Development Director Matt Cazier said flood waters only entered one home in the 37-lot subdivision, according to the information he had gathered Thursday. At least one homeowner said water began coming up through the sink drains and toilets in her house during Wednesday's flood.

Residents spent Thursday clearing away the mud left behind by the torrent and reinforcing sandbag walls around their homes, with the help of area businesses and churches.

"All in all, it's just been a community-based effort," said Ulibarri, who was digging a canal behind his house with a small trackhoe that was loaned to him by an equipment rental company.

Uintah County crews brought in roughly 4,000 sandbags and three dump trucks of sand after Wednesday's flood, but Ulibarri wants to see the county to do more.

"We need some water diversion, and we need help," he said.

Cedar Ridge, which sits at the base of Yellow Hill, is in a natural drainage, Uintah County Commissioner Darlene Burns said. The area is listed as a floodplain by the Federal Emergency Management Agency, she said.

"We're doing the best we can," Burns said, "but it's just the natural terrain of the property there."

Burns pointed out that the land uphill from the subdivision to the west is private property. The owner of that land is responsible for clearing debris from channels on the property to help prevent flooding, she said.

County officials plan to meet next week to discuss the situation, said Burns, who noted that county commissioners Mike McKee and Mark Raymond are out of town this week. Part the discussion will include a review of the culverts in the area to determine whether they are sufficiently sized.

"The culverts have always worked perfectly in the past," Burns said. "This was just a very unusual, very quick, massive rainstorm that we had."

Ulibarri and his neighbors are hoping the next storm isn't so massive, but they know even a little water could cause big problems if something isn't done. So for now, they're doing it themselves.

"I'm trying to do anything I can to save my house," Ulibarri said.

Email: gliesik@deseretnews.com, Twitter: GeoffLiesik

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