As farmers count the bodies of their livestock drowned by ravaging torrents of escaping water New Year's Eve, their anger toward the so-called "man-made disaster" floods their minds and conversations.
"They should have alerted people sooner than they did," said Ruth Ann Basile bitterly. "If we had just had notice, we could have moved our livestock to higher ground and saved them."Mrs. Basile remains at home during the day while her husband, Don, spends his time tracking through their mud-drenched fields accounting for their lost cattle, horses, chickens and dogs.
The Basiles' farmland is located three miles from Washington City on the south side of the Virgin River.
The couple, who live in St. George, had saved for years to gradually build up a small herd.
"Twenty cows may not sound like a lot to some people. But they are all we have. Each cow was worth about $500.
"Now everything we had worked so hard for is gone - including a lovely trailer we had on the land."
The only notice they had that the Quail Creek reservoir would break was a siren that sounded in St. George just moments before midnight, she said.
Last summer, when her husband discovered water leaking from the dam into the river, he called to inquire about it. Officials told him it was OK for the dam to leak, Mrs. Basile said.
"We took such pride in our farm. Just Saturday morning, Don was building more fences. But by Sunday morning, our alfalfa fields, fences, chicken coops, track house had all been totally leveled - as if a bulldozer had gone ruthlessly through."
She doesn't know if insurance will cover any of their losses.
"It's devastating. It makes you wonder how long it will be until it happens again," she said.
In St. George, the manager of the hard-hit Riverside Apartments is equally angry about the short warning she and her tenants received about the wall of water that would thunder through their homes.
"They should have let us know much sooner," said Arline Heaton. "We could have had hours of valuable time to collect personal belongings - such as photo albums and family history records - that were ruined by the flood."
Advance notice would have allowed time for the tenants who lived in the lower-level apartments to move their valuables upstairs to vacant apartments. Many residents said they had no insurance to cover the losses.
"There's a lot of anger about how this was handled. The elderly folks are especially mad that they have lost things from their lives that can't be replaced. Memories."
Steve Husted, who has lived at the Riverside Apartments for about a year, said the waters damaged his stereo system and filled his cars full of silt, although they still run.
"We had all our in-laws down so there were eight of us in this little apartment," he said. "We all spent the night in an Oldsmobile."
One elderly woman became severely disoriented and panicked after being told suddenly about the pending flood. A man grabbed her and forced her to leave to save her life, said Heaton.
"That dam was never a stable thing from the first day they started building it. Everyone knew that it was not going to last," said Heaton.
The lower-level apartments were filled with nearly 6 feet of "muck and filth." The walls have become rotten and are beginning to collapse.
Looters have broken windows, said Heaton.
She estimates the damage from the flood to be in the millions of dollars.
But beyond the physical damage is the damage to future business. "People may not want to live in the path of this dam."
The only thing that permits displaced tenants to smile at all during the ordeal is the outpouring of help from local businessmen, the Red Cross, church groups, volunteer physicians and neighbors.
Tony Hafen, Washington County Emergency Management Director, said Tuesday morning that fewer than 30 people remained homeless. People have brought in food and most of the displaced are staying in others' homes.
Volunteers are lending a hand to form bucket brigades, bailing out mud and water from damaged apartments and homes throughout the stricken area.
The Red Cross reported that most of those whose homes were damaged have temporarily moved in with friends or family members. The two TraveLodges in St. George have provided shelter for those without a place to go.
While the community works together to clean up tons of debris left behind by the flood, outsiders have been asked to refrain from "curiosity-seeking."
Sandra McClellan of the Washington County Sheriff's office said accidents have been caused by onlookers stopping on the highway to gawk at the damages.
Some are ignoring police barriers and are endangering themselves by standing on unsteady ground.
A resident of Bloomington Hills, an area heavily flooded, McClellan said, "It's not a great way to begin a new year, but cooperation by everyone helps us cope."