Zion National Park received more than an inch of rain in an hour Tuesday afternoon, leading to flash flooding that shut down the park’s main road.
State Road 9 near Zion filled with water during the storm. The park closed canyons and The Narrows because of the flash floods. A search and rescue operation had to be paused during the rain but resumed Tuesday evening.
Zion will be in “modified operations” Wednesday as the park staff cleans up after Tuesday’s damage — and keeps an eye out for more flash flooding.
According to the National Weather Service, scattered showers and thunderstorms are expected through Wednesday evening — and some will produce heavy rain, with the potential for flash flooding in slot canyons, small streams and normally dry washes. There’s also the potential for debris flows near recent burn scars. Wednesday’s flash flood warning for Zion is “probable.”
It’s also “probable” at Capitol Reef National Park, Glen Canyon National Recreation Area, Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument and the San Rafael Swell — and “possible” at Arches, Bryce Canyon and Canyonlands national parks.
In the meantime, park staffers are working to reopen State Road 9, the south and east entrances, the visitor center, park store and shuttle operations. Visitors should expect traffic delays, debris on the roads, and possibly closures of trails and parking areas. The oversized vehicle lot is closed until further notice.
On Tuesday, Twitter user Ben Wong posted videos of the flooding at Zion that he said were taken by his sister, Sabrina Wong, who is in Zion with their mother. One video showed a raging river of red floodwater. He said the two were at the Zion Adventure Center on Tuesday afternoon and were grateful to the center’s staff for helping them get to safety.
The Utah Division of Emergency Management issued a warning about flash flooding in Kane and Washington counties at about 5 p.m. on Tuesday, advising people to go to higher ground if there was a flooding emergency and not try to walk or drive through rivers or streams. Dry washes and narrow canyons should be avoided as they can “flood without warning,” the division tweeted. Over half of flood drownings happen when people attempt to drive into floodwater, according to the division.
Division spokesperson Wade Mathews said Tuesday afternoon that flooding in the Springdale area in Washington County led to some cars being lifted up and moved by water on the roads. He said some structures were flooded, although he did not know what kind or how many. There were no evacuations or reports of injuries, he said.