S. Utah flooding causes millions in damage, but no one was hurt
For Santa Clara businessman Steve Sevy, the aftermath of flooding from a failed southwestern Utah earthen dike could be summed up with a few stark words: "We're just devastated."
But on Wednesday, Sevy's dismay over an estimated $600,000 in damage to his Town Square strip mall businesses was countered by relief and gratitude: His stepson's nearby home was totally destroyed by Tuesday's wall of water and mud, but no one was hurt.
"The water had ponded up about four to five feet deep behind a retaining wall when about 100 feet of it gave way and tipped over. In just seconds, the flood filled up the basement of my [stepson's] house. It took the whole structure partially off its foundation," Sevy said.
The $240,000 home is a total loss, he said. "But the important thing is that we're not planning any funerals today. My daughter-in-law and her two little babies weren't there at the time and are OK," Sevy said.
Sevy said his stepson, Carson Bostwick, and his family were staying with him in his Santa Clara home for now.
Businesses in Sevy's strip mall sustained heavy damage, too, as nearly three feet of water built up on the parking lot and then seeped inside front doors. "The water's gone, but now we have about three inches of mud to clean up," he said. "But the cleanup is going well."
Santa Clara city officials Wednesday were just beginning damage assessments as homeowners and volunteers started cleanup Wednesday, the day after heavy rains overwhelmed an earthen dike and sent a 2-3 foot wall of water into dozens of homes and businesses.
City Manager Edward Dickie said the Washington County community estimated at least $3 million in damage to the dike, road surfaces and sidewalks alone. That figure is likely to grow significantly once residential and business damages are added to the tab.
"Right now we have 31 homes and 12 businesses flooded," Dickie said Wednesday. "Most of the water has drained off but has left mud behind in places. We've got hundreds of volunteers area residents on work breaks, students coming between or after classes, and neighbors are helping homeowners out, pumping basements and cleaning up."
Santa Clara public safety representatives, working with homeowners and insurers, were just beginning the task of developing an assessment for total flood-related damages.
All of the residents of the affected homes found shelter; some returned to still-habitable portions of their homes while others took refuge with friends or family, Dickie said.
Heavy rains on Tuesday triggered flooding throughout southwestern Utah's Washington County, but it was in Santa Clara where the runoff had its most dramatic impact. When the earthen dike on a canal connected to a retention pond failed, the resulting deluge rushed into eastern Santa Clara toward the Santa Clara River. In all, 60 homes and 15 businesses were briefly evacuated.
Dickie said the dike had been built in 1919, but was considered safe. "It had held all those years, and it had just passed state inspection in April," he said.
Dickie said some reports that the dike was on a list for urgent repair, said that was inaccurate. Rather, a regional flood authority which includes St. George, Santa Clara, Ivins made up a list after the flooding in 2005 of structures that "probably needed attention some day," he said.
The Santa Clara dike was on that list due to its age, but it was not considered in need of any repairs, having "passed state inspections every year" and being declared sound, Dickie said.
Santa Clara officials late Tuesday declared a local disaster area. Dickie said they were awaiting responses from Washington County and state officials on what aid they may receive.
Meanwhile, the National Weather Service issued a new flash flood watch Wednesday, this time designating the southern third of Utah as being at risk for swollen water ways and runoff from rain-laden thunderstorms rolling through the region.
The advisory, which stretched from Green River south to Milford, St. George, Zion National Park and Bluff, was to run through Wednesday evening. Particularly at risk for flash flooding were slot canyons, normally dry washes and slopes recently denuded by wildfires.
More thunderstorms and scattered rain showers were forecast for Wednesday for southwestern Utah, but Thursday was expected to dawn clear and sunny. High temperatures both days were predicted to be in the mid-80s to near 90 degrees.
Northern Utah, meanwhile, was in for sunny skies and temperatures in the mid-70s Wednesday, with Thursday's forecast also sunny and bit warmer, with highs in the low-80s.
Salt Lake City looked for a high of 82 Thursday after Wednesday's forecast for 76 degrees; Ogden expected 79 and 74 degrees, respectively; Provo 85 and 80; Logan 82 and 75; Wendover 82 and 76; Duchesne 74 and 72; Cedar City 81 and 76; St. George 93 and 88; and Moab 83 and 80 degrees.
How to help
The Santa Clara Flood Relief Fund 2012, which will be used to help city residents and businesses affected by the Sept. 11 flood, has been established at State Bank of Southern Utah.