Massive rolling boulder rocks town of Rockville

Published February 12, 2010 7:50 am
Hazards » Buildings, vehicles damaged; another rock unstable.
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A massive boulder slid off a ridge Wednesday above this tiny town near Zion National Park, rolled 300 feet and shattered. Huge pieces from the boulder then smashed multiple buildings. One shard shot through the back door of a nearby home and then out the front door before demolishing an SUV parked outside.

Michelle Reese was in her kitchen Wednesday morning when the rocks flew.

"I heard a rumbling like an earthquake," she said. "I thought 'Oh my God, a rock slide,' And looked out the window to see a rock fly through the dog room."

Reese and her roommate, Tamera Burton, both rushed out of the house and surveyed the damage caused by the exploding boulder. Three chicken coops, a work building and hay barn were all smashed.

Burton's Lincoln SUV was wrecked and a chunk of the boulder landed on the roof of Reese's GMC Sierra pickup.

Burton said if the rolling boulder had not hit another rock at the base of the hill, things could have been worse.

"If that big [base] rock was not there it wouldn't have stopped," she said.

No one was injured in the incident that occurred at 7:30 a.m.

Tyler Knudsen, a geologist with the Utah Geological Survey, said the rolling boulder was 30 feet in diameter and loosened after several days of rain.

It shattered after hitting another boulder, shooting pieces as far as 180 feet.

"Once that thing exploded, it kind of rained down boulders," said Knudsen.

Another boulder about the same size is still perched on the ridge about 80 feet from where Wednesday's rock fall originated, and has geologists concerned.

"Inspection of the base shows where surface water has eroded out a void around the boulder, posing a very high hazard to structures below," said Knudsen.

Mayor Allen Brown said he has been in contact with the Five Counties Association of Governments for advice on how to deal with the precarious second boulder.

"Old photographs show those two boulders have been there for decades," said Brown, adding the second boulder could come down in 10 days or 10 years.

Longtime resident Leon Lewis witnessed the slide from his kitchen window across the street and said it caused a rumbling followed by a huge dust cloud.

"I was afraid they were wiped out," said Lewis about his neighbors.

He said in the nearly five decades he has lived in the town next to Zion National Park he has seen several such slides including one in 2001 that flattened a house.

"Gravity pulls them [boulders] down," he said. "Not up."

mhavnes@sltrib.com" Target="_BLANK">mhavnes@sltrib.com



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