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Weber River levee gives way, homes threatened by floodwaters

Published June 9, 2011 12:01 pm

Cooler temperatures otherwise slowing runoff, flooding risks in Utah
This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2011, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

Weber County emergency crews scrambled Thursday to save homes after a levee gave way in the rural Warren-Plain City area along northern Utah's Weber River.

Weber County Sheriff's Lt. Mark Lowther said the about 20 feet of levee, located near 6000 West and 1100 North, was breached by floodwaters about 8 a.m. No residences were immediately evacuated, though up to a 15 homes were threatened.

Salt Lake Tribune reporter Cimaron Neugebauer is tweeting live from the scene.

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As waters slopped over the river's banks, homeowners and neighbors were rushing to place stockpiled sandbags around properties potentially in the path of water flowing from the levee breach, a sheriff's dispatcher said. County public works crews also were dispatched to the scene with heavy equipment to cut adjacent roads in an effort to alleviate pressure on the levee as workers labored to close the breach.

Lowther said the breach occurred on the same levee structure where crews had installed half a dozen pumps on Tuesday in an effort to siphon off rising waters and divert the flow down a newly-dug canal leading to the Great Salt Lake.

The National Weather Service reported that the river near the breach had reached nearly 28 feet Thursday morning, roughly a foot above flood stage. Nearby farmlands were the first to be inundated when the levee breached.

The levee failure came as forecasters issued a flood warning for Weber and seven other Utah counties on Thursday.

The Weber River incident seemed to be the exception, however, to a generally improving flood risk situation statewide. Cooler, below-normal temperatures Thursday were slowing runoff into the region's bank-full rivers and streams, with highs were forecast to range from the low- to mid-60s in northern Utah and nippy low 50s in eastern Utah.

Friday's highs were to rise a bit into the mid-70s, still several degrees below normal for this time of year.

In southern Utah, hotter thermometers were expected, but the forecast otherwise was for clear and dry weather. Highs in St. George Thursday and Friday were predicted for the 80s and 90s.

As numerous waterways remained filled to the brim, and in some cases were still spreading beyond their banks, the National Weather Service extended flood warnings in eight counties — Weber, Davis, Morgan, Sanpete, Summit, Juab, Piute and Sevier — to Friday afternoon after initially planning to let them expire late Thursday.

Fresh flooding was blamed for the closure of State Road 118 in Joseph Thursday afternoon. Authorities said water from the glutted Sevier River had portions of the rural arterial awash.

Forecasters cautioned that despite improving conditions, the danger of flooding remained a concern in several areas into mid-June: the Weber River, which remained above flood stage Thursday, from Echo Reservoir to its termination at the Great Salt Lake; the south fork of the Ogden River, also at flood stage near Huntsville; Lost Creek near Croyden; and the Sevier River from the Piute Reservoir to Yuba Lake.

Meanwhile, Salt Lake County emergency management crews were keeping close watch on the Jordan River as well as Big and Little and City creeks. The same vigilance was being exercised in Utah County, where on Wednesday an 8-year-old boy drowned in the cold, fast-moving waters in the American Fork River.

His was the fifth drowning death reported in Utah waterways over the past two weeks.

remims@sltrib.com