Heading to higher ground
HATCH - Robert Newsted is keeping the visitors at his recreational vehicle park on high ground.
For the past three days, he has been moving them from the rising flood waters of the Sevier River, which by Wednesday had submerged about 15 RV sites and all 18 tent sites at the Riverside Motel and RV Park just west of Bryce Canyon National Park in southern Utah's Garfield County.
The river also washed out a section of bridge in the area of the town known as Old Hatch. Newsted used the bridge to access his house.
Newsted said a neighbor awoke him early Monday to tell him the bridge was washing out.
"We evacuated about 1:30 and there was about six inches of water across the bridge," said Newsted. "I went back at about 2:15 and there was a foot of water and later that morning the bridge was gone."
Until the bridge is replaced, Newsted will use an alternative route to get to his business. That route also has a bridge across the river, and if that crossing fails he does not know what he will do.
On Wednesday, Newsted said about 15 other homeowners in Old Hatch are also affected by the washed out bridge and those who live near the river banks have serious concerns about the high water.
Newsted hopes the river will recede by July and August when the steady stream of the tourist season kicks into high gear.
"We had some people who have a family reunion planned in July stop by Tuesday to see the place and we told them it should be fine by then," said Newsted. "Hopefully we'll be OK."
Farther down stream, the Sevier River cuts around Panguitch to the north of Hatch before entering Piute County.
Sections of the river parallel U.S. Highway 89, winding around the town of Circleville and rolling past the town of Junction before spilling into Piute Reservoir at Piute Lake State Park, which was nearly completely full Wednesday. It then continues past Marysvale before running by Richfield and eventually ends in Juab County.
Forecasters expect flows to increase until early next week. They predict the river will sustain high flows for at least two weeks.
At the Piute County Courthouse in Junction, Jack Richardson said Wednesday that the high stream flows in the area are the talk of the morning at the coffee shop in Marysvale, where he has lived for 10 years.
"We're taking bets on how long the high water will flow," said Richardson. "They tell me it will be two weeks, but I think it could be for two months."
Richardson said as long as he has lived in the area he has only seen one little flood.
"It's different this year," he said. "It's the biggest problem the county has and when it comes we're not going to have a whole lot of fun."
In Marysvale, many homes and several businesses already have sandbags neatly stacked along their foundations or around their property.
Mary Fullmer, owner of the Marysvale Motel, is ready for flood waters with a small hill of sandbags piled in the parking lot.
She fears flooding from Bullion Creek, which flows east from the mountains through the town, more than from the Sevier River, which was spreading into empty fields east of town on Wednesday.
"The creek has flooded before after rain storms and flowed right down Main Street," said Fullmer, pointing to U.S. 89, which is also the town's Main Street. "Last time it was on the other side of the road. When the creek overflows, you just have to control it."