Cedar City mayor declares state of emergency due to ‘extensive’ flood damage

Some homes were flooded and cars were nearly submerged; one road was “pretty much a river,” official says.

(Cinder Player | Special to The Tribune) Heavy rains flooded the bottom floor of an apartment building and impacted Cedar City and surrounding areas Monday, July 28, 2021.

The Cedar City mayor declared a state of emergency on Monday after a powerful storm system dropped more than 2 inches of rain on the city in about an hour, flooding streets and some homes.

The city’s Facebook page announced it had run out of sandbags just after 3 p.m., about 30 minutes after the National Weather Service issued a flash flood warning for the area. The post advised residents to try calling the county for help.

“Also, we are getting calls [for help] from all over the City,” the post read. “Please be patient as our City crews are trying to respond to each incident as best they can.”

Cedar City Mayor Maile Wilson-Edwards said in her tweet about the emergency declaration that flood damage was “extensive.” She said crews would work through the night to assess damage.

The worst of the flooding in Cedar City was west of Main Street, police Sgt. Clint Pollock said. Some neighborhoods were flooded and State Route 56 was “pretty much a river.”

Jordan Porcaro, who lives in Cedar City, took photos of his apartment complex on Monday afternoon, showing cars in the parking lot nearly submerged and water standing nearly to the top of the door frames of apartments built below ground level.

Police didn’t report any injuries on Monday, but officers did have to help a few motorists whose vehicles stalled on the roads, said Pollock. He urged people not to try driving through water.

Cedar City and the surrounding areas were under a flash flood warning until 4:30 p.m. and will remain under a flash flood watch until midnight — along with much of the southwestern portion of the state. Into the evening Monday, more storms are predicted over parts of eastern Utah and into Colorado. San Juan County is under a flash flood warning until 9 p.m.

(Cinder Player | Special to The Tribune) Heavy rains caused flooding and impacted Cedar City and surrounding areas Monday, July 28, 2021.

The storm system Monday afternoon also triggered flash flood warnings and closures in other parts of Iron County, in addition to Garfield, Kane, Beaver and Washington counties.

The NWS said radar showed up to 2.5 inches of rain had fallen into the headwaters of the Pinto Creek watershed, near Pinto and Newcastle, about 35 miles west of Cedar City, and could impact travel on State Route 56.

This area, which was hit hard by storms last week, was under a flash flood warning until 6 p.m. The NWS reported minimal flooding near Newcastle.

Zion National Park shut down the popular Narrows Trail, as well as its other slot canyons because of predicted floods.

Floods were also forecast at Escalante River Canyon, within the Grand Staircase–Escalante National Monument, where up to an inch of rain had already fallen by 2:45 p.m. The flash flood warning for that area lapsed at 6:45 p.m.

“Flooding is occurring or is imminent. It is important to know where you are relative to streams, rivers, or creeks which can become killers in heavy rains. Campers and hikers should avoid streams or creeks,” the NWS said in the warning.

Water from that storm system flowed south, into the upper portions of Wahweap Creek, and could produce floods downstream through Big Water as the water travels to Lake Powell, the NWS said.

A flash flood warning was scheduled to be in effect for that area of Kane County until 11:30 p.m. Monday.

While these flash floods can be dangerous for people caught unaware, some who live near Grand Staircase have been taking in the spectacle of the monsoon season and the water running through the dry landscape.

It’s been a few years since Allysia Angus, who lives in the area, has seen so much water “rocking and rolling.”

She took a video at the confluence of Birch and North creeks and the Escalante River that shows tan, roaring water racing down a waterfall and underneath a bridge.

Angus described the storm as one of the “top 5” she has seen in the two decades she’s lived near Escalante, and something she thought many of her neighbors would be grateful for.

Another thunderstorm also cropped up Monday along the Iron and Beaver county lines near Minersville. Forecasters predicted it could produce heavy rain, half-dollar-size hail, and wind gusts at speeds up to 60 mph.

Soon after the NWS issued a severe thunderstorm warning because of that storm, the service announced a flash flood warning nearby, saying that radar estimates indicate up to 2.5 inches had fallen into tributaries of the Beaver River and could cause issues for travelers in south central Beaver County. That warning expired at 6:45 p.m.

Around 3:30 p.m., the NWS spotted a severe thunderstorm in Washington County, near St. George. It predicted the storm could produce 60 mph wind and half-dollar-sized hail.

That storm then moved northwest into Santa Clara and Ivins. The NWS issued an advisory that urban and small streams there could flood.

Forecasters say that this weather pattern that’s causing scattered, strong storms and flooding will likely be here through the first weekend of August.

“The long-term forecast is beginning to sound like a broken record,” NWS said Monday.

The moist airmass causing these southern Utah storms will likely move into the Salt Lake Valley beginning Tuesday afternoon, causing scattered showers and thunderstorms — and pushing away the harmful wildfire smoke.

(Cinder Player | Special to The Tribune) Residents try to salvage remains from the bottom floor of an apartment building after heavy rains impacted Cedar City and surrounding areas Monday, July 28, 2021.