A California man is confirmed dead in a flash flood that swept through the Virgin River Narrows of Zion National Park on Monday, and searchers are looking for a companion, also believed killed.
Elsewhere in southern Utah, Spring City, Sanpete County, is digging out from flash floods that caused an estimated $2 million to $2.5 million in damage, including crop losses and six destroyed bridges.On Tuesday, rangers at Zion National Park recovered the body of a man identified as Ramsey E. Algan of Long Beach, Calif., who apparently died in the Narrows during a flash flood triggered by heavy rains. Park officials say two other hikers said Algan was hiking with a male companion.
Although no identification was found on the body, rangers believe they know who he was because they found Algan's parked car.
"We're now organizing a search along the banks of the north fork of the Virgin River," Davies said Wednesday. Acting Chief Ranger David Buccello added, "Rocky Mountain Rescue Dogs from Salt Lake City have been called in to aid in the search."
A group of hikers two miles upstream from the Temple of Sinawava parking area in the north end of the park noticed Algan's body in the river about 5 p.m. Monday. They pulled it out of the river but remained stranded by high waters until Tuesday morning, when they hiked out and told rangers.
A heavy rainstorm increased the river's flow by about 700 percent. Normally the river flows at 110 cubic feet per second, but after the storm Monday it was roaring through the canyon at more than 740 cps. The river only took "a matter of minutes" to rise that much. At that rate, a hiker is lucky to stay alive, Davies said.
He and William J. Alder, spokesman for the National Weather Service, agree that flash flood warnings were in place.
Authorities discouraged hikers from venturing into narrow canyons before the storm, but not all listened. Also, signs were posted at trail heads warning hikers of the flood danger.
"Unfortunately, many people ignore the warnings and enter the narrows," Davies said. Hikers should avoid narrows in July and August, the months that flash flood danger is at its highest. Canyon hiking is the safest in spring and fall, Davies added
Asked whether the victim should have known a flash flood warning was in effect, Davies said, "Yes."
Three different floods hit Spring City, Sanpete County, when Canal Canyon Creek overflowed. They were on Wednesday and Friday last week and this Monday. Also, Freedom and Jerusalem in Sanpete County were flooded last Friday, said Alder.
Donald Hagberg, chief of police at Spring City, said a rough estimate of the damage is $2 million to $2.5 million. "Apparently, we just got an overabundance of rain," he said.