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Rains quell fire threat, but give little to Utah’s water storage

First Published Aug 20 2014 08:53PM      Last Updated Aug 20 2014 10:09 pm

Wet monsoon storms that started in July and are continuing this week have staved off Utah’s wildfire threat, but they have caused serious flash flooding and done little to help the state’s water supply.

That’s the word from state officials monitoring the impact of the seasonal storms in very different ways.

"Rain in the summer is a nice thing. It keeps people from using water stored in the reservoirs by shutting off their sprinklers when they can, but overall it has a very minimal impact on our water supply scenario," said National Weather Service hydrologist Brian McInerney.

Utah’s precipitation was 131 percent above average in July, according to the monthly Climate and Water Report from the Natural Resources Conservation Service.

And August is off to a roaring start, but even with the impressive rainfall totals the state was still only at 83 percent of average in water year (October to October) precipitation.

That number might seem high, but it is better to have higher totals in the late winter or early spring as a result of snowpack and not summer rain that often disappears before contributing to water storage in Utah.

"Not much is going into our reservoirs," McInerney said. "A lot of it evaporates. Plants take it to grow and it goes away. We really don’t see much benefit besides it is cooler."

A pattern of brief, dry periods between waves of water-engorged clouds is expected to repeat through the remainder of the workweek as a cycle of storms continues to drift through the state toward a southeastern exit into the Four Corners region and beyond.

The rain started early Wednesday with some areas receiving an inch before dawn.

West Jordan and Sandy reported flooding in low-lying intersections. More than a dozen homes reportedly experienced basement flooding in southwest Salt Lake County, many of them in West Jordan’s 7000 South and 3200 West area.

Murray reported 0.84 inches of precipitation by early Wednesday and Orem was at 0.70.

Eastern Utah’s Grand County was dealing with heavy rain, too. State Route 128, from mileposts 18 to 30, was closed temporarily Wednesday due to flooding, the Utah Department of Transportation said.

The National Weather Service issued a flash flood warning for Panguitch Wednesday afternoon and reported some homes there had been affected by flooding due to heavy rain.

And more than rain fell from Wednesday’s skies. Hail 1-inch in diameter fell about 4:30 p.m. at the Tooele airport, according to the weather service. Winds were also heavy with Hanksville recording a gust of 56 mph and Brigham City 43 mph.

Some preliminary rainfall totals for the 24-hour period ending 8:30 p.m. Wednesday include:

• West Jordan 0.97



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