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, Beth Ann Jackman
Snow Canyon Parkway in St. George, Utah.
We have had kids swimming in standing water in the roadways, and vehicles driving through standing water. —Marc Mortensen, St. George Assistant City Manager

ST. GEORGE  — Heavy rain unleashed a torrent of flooding in the western half of this city, triggering several small landslides and turning roadways into rivers.

Assistant City Manager Marc Mortensen said about a hundred homes and a few businesses west of Main Street were possibly impacted by the Sunday storm and city crews were out in full force distributing sandbags and helping water-logged residents prevent more damage.

Mortensen said drought-stricken residents enamored with the rain began playing in the streets, confounding response efforts.

"It makes it a little bit challenging for crews to do their jobs," he said. "We have had kids swimming in standing water in the roadways, and vehicles driving through standing water."

So far, Mortensen said only minor injuries were reported.

The heavy rain overwhelmed storm drains, popping manhole covers. Sections of Main Street had 2 feet of standing water, Mortensen added, while other roads had as much as 4 feet of standing water. Several landslides were reported, and people had cars stalling on them as they tried to navigate through the city.

Mortensen said Home Depot is handing out sandbags, and other sandbags are stacked at town square in the middle of the city and at the re-use center on Brigham Road. Crews also went from neighborhood to neighborhood to distribute sandbags to affected residents. Mortensen said the storm was accompanied by quarter-sized hail and fierce thunder.

The storm that hit at 4:30 p.m. was relentless, Mortensen said.

"Never in my 15 years have I seen water come down that much, that quickly," he said. "It lasted 45 minutes."

All dry washes were overflowing with water and mud and debris oozed onto streets.

Even as Mortensen described the fury of the storm a few hours later, he said it was starting to rain again, and crews were readying for round two. The National Weather Service initially issued a flash flood and severe weather advisory that was supposed to expire at 8:30 p.m. Sunday, but then extended the warning through 2 a.m. Monday.

"It was violent for about 45 minutes," Mortensen said. "I've never seen a storm unleash so much fury in such a short time."

Some other areas of Washington County were said to have flash flooding as well, but a Washington County Sheriff's dispatcher said St. George was getting the brunt of the storm's impact.

The severe rain, damaging winds and cloud-to-ground lightning prompted the weather service to issue warnings Sunday afternoon for multiple areas throughout the state.

A similar extreme weather warning was issued for east central Emery County or 15 miles southwest of Green River, where winds were expected to top 60 mph. Like Washington County, quarter-sized hail was possible, and the weather service warned people to stay inside and away from windows. An Emery County Sheriff's dispatcher said no reports of flooding were made, and residents welcomed the break from the long dry spell.

Elsewhere, officials were worried that heavy rain over the Wood Hollow Fire's burn scar could result in debris flows.

The burn scar is west of U.S. 89 between Birdseye and Mount Pleasant, where up to three quarters of rain was expected to fall.  Particularly vulnerable areas included Indianola and U.S. 89 from Birdseye through Fairview.

Residents throughout most of the state can expect the unsettled weather to continue through Monday. The weather service is warning that the volatile pattern could produce gusty winds, hail, thunderstorms and cloud-to-ground lightning.

Storms could produce enough rain water that slot canyons and dry washes fill up, and any slope areas that have been burned by wildfires will be prone to debris flows.

By the end of the week the warm weather will return, with temperatures reaching July norms.

E-mail: amyjoi@desnews.com

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