Cristy Hawkes Montgomery
Flooding in Tremonton. The White House says winter flooding that turned Cache and Box Elder front yards into icy islands and sent sewage back into homes there amounted to a "major disaster."

SALT LAKE CITY — It was much more than a wintry mix.

Snowmelt and severe storms joined forces in February to transform front yards into icy islands across northern Utah and send sewage backing up into homes. Cache and Box Elder counties have aired out in the last two months, but an estimated $6 million in clean-up costs lingers.

The counties took consolation Friday as the White House pledged to help them rebuild and recover, saying the flooding amounted to a major disaster. The move opens up federal funds for state and local governments to rebuild and recover.

"If the county can use it and prevent flooding in the future, that would be a really beneficial thing," said Tremonton Mayor Roger Fridal on Friday.

Fridal's community of 7,600 in Box Elder County was inundated, but fared better than some others. In Garland, 75 miles north of Salt Lake City, a landslide grazed the front steps of a home. And over in Farr West, a hairdresser watched in horror, hair dryer in hand, as untreated toilet water rose up around her client's chair.

The White House announced the aid in a prepared statement Friday but did not go into detail on how much money would be available and when.

State disaster managers said the three weeks of flooding that began Feb. 7 cost the region an estimated $6.7 million, including damage to roads and the costs of providing sandbags and other resources to battle the flooding.

"That's a significant burden for a couple of counties to have to shoulder on their own," said Joe Dougherty, spokesman for the Utah Division of Emergency Management.

Dougherty's agency will be working with officials in Washington, D.C., in coming weeks to determine priorities for spending the money. Federal disaster relief typically reimburses states at a rate of 75 percent, Dougherty said.

The National Weather Service has said winter 2017 was a season of "extremes" for Utah.

In December, Utah snowfall was two to three times the normal amount; in January, it was four times. The chilly weather quickly gave way to warmer temperatures, sunshine and rain, making for water-logged basements in Box Elder, Weber, Cache and Rich counties.

On Feb. 14, Box Elder County declared an emergency, and Cache County followed suit the next day. Officers with the Utah National Guard helped fill 30,000 sandbags, and the Red Cross parceled out mops, brooms, paper towels and cleaning supplies.

Garland Mayor Todd Miller at the time said flooding isn't uncommon in the town of 2,500, but February's was the worst he had seen. Still, some homeowners didn't wait for help. Many began digging trenches to slow the flow.

Gov. Gary Herbert declared a state of emergency in the counties on April 1, opening the door for President Donald Trump to allow federal assistance.