Flash floods swept through parts of southern Utah on Wednesday night, including the small town of Hanksville and Caineville, where homes, businesses, farms, and cars were inundated as the water rose.
There was flooding along the Fremont River in Wayne County, and Hanksville got the worst of it — as much as 6 feet of water, according to the National Weather Service.
Gov. Spencer Cox said on his Twitter feed that state emergency officials are helping out in Hanksville. “We are grateful for the safety of everyone and quick action of first responders to the flooding last night,” Cox tweeted.
Melissa Avery, one of about 300 residents of Hanksville, posted startling video of the flooding on Twitter along with a plea to “Pray for Hanksville!”
The National Weather Service reported that almost an inch of rain fell on Hanksville on Wednesday and that 1.39 inches fell on Capitol Reef National Park, which is about 30 miles west of the town.
Now that the flash floods have slowed down, efforts are now underway to clean up the damage.
Duke Alvey, whose family owns three businesses in Hanksville, said those locations suffered thousands of dollars in damage from mud, water, rocks and trash in the recent floods — and insurance may not cover it all.
Alvey said the Whispering Sands Motel will need around $150,000 in upgrades, and will only be half-operational during the usually busy Labor Day weekend.
“Flash flooding is kind of normal, but the size of this was abnormal,” Alvey said. The flooding that hit the motel and his family’s two restaurants — Duke’s Slickrock Grill and Stan’s Burger Shack — happened between Bull Creek and State Route 95, and was about a quarter-mile wide.
Alvey said his insurance may not cover all the damage, because Hanksville is not considered part of a floodplain, as required by FEMA regulations.
“Never seen the river quite that big,” said Randy Ramsley, owner of the Mesa Farm and Market, a 50-acre farm along the Fremont River in Caineville, about 20 miles west of Hanksville. “It jumped banks and tore down a lot of my fences.”
Ramsley added: “Worst of all, it ran so high that it drowned the kid goat herd. … The water went so high that they could not swim fast enough.”
Ramsley said he lost 15 kid goats, which he had raised since birth, preparing them to produce milk when they matured. They were being raised, he said, as “replacement kids” for the dairy goats that now provide the milk for the farm’s popular cheese.
In his 20 years in Caineville, Ramsley said he could not recall the Fremont and its tributaries flooding so quickly.
Ramsley took the long view. “Some days are better than others, but it will be alright,” he said. “If you look at the history of Hanksville and Caineville, it is based around floods.”
Flooding is not expected at any of Utah’s national parks or monuments on Friday. There is no hazardous weather in the weather service’s forecast Friday through Wednesday.