Huntsville • There are 150 sandbags between Wayne Hill’s family cabin and the Ogden River.
During the next week or so, he expects he and his neighbors will deploy a thousand more to protect their small neighborhood along the river’s banks.
“Two years ago, the water ran right through their yard,” Hill said, pointing at a neighbor’s house. “It went in through their front door and out the back door.”
The National Weather Service says Hill is right to be concerned. It predicts the Ogden River near Huntsville will fill its banks by April 29. Mountain snowpacks were almost 200 percent of normal in some spots, and a rainy spring had the river rushing past Hill’s cabin Monday.
Yet, on a statewide level, the weather service also had an optimistic picture for Utah on Monday. Only two other river spots — also in the northern third of Utah, were predicted to fill their banks in the next week or so.
The Blacksmith Fork River, near Hyrum, is expected to fill its banks Saturday, while Lost Creek, near Croydon, is pegged to nearly fill up May 1.
“We don’t really see any indication that we’re going to see widespread flooding at all [this spring],” said Brian McInerney, a hydrologist with the weather service.
Some rivers and creeks could overflow their banks, he said. But flooding, which the weather service defines as damage to property, isn’t a given just because of the high water year.
Rivers, creeks and other drainages, especially in northern Utah, have had thousands of years to develop and have handled flows with a lot more volume than what’s predicted any time soon, McInerney said.
The other factor in whether flooding arrives is if it continues to snow and rain in Utah, or, if it does, the length of the intervals between any precipitation, he said. If new precipitation arrives before the soil has a chance to dry, it will be like trying to add water to a soaked sponge. The water will have nowhere to go.
But McInerney saw no reason for concern Monday.
“For the most part," he said, “it’s the outside chance that we’re going to see river flooding that causes damage.”
If you think Salt Lake City has seen an unusual amount of rain in the past few weeks, you’re right. According to the weather service, Sunday’s storm brought the April precipitation total for Utah’s capital to 3.06 inches — with nine days remaining in the month and the possibility of more rain in the forecast for Friday.
It also means that April was the second straight month that Salt Lake City has had 3-plus inches of rain — and that’s only the ninth time that has happened since 1874.
Salt Lake City averages 2 inches of rain in April. It averages 1.91 inches in March, and received more than twice that amount (3.96 inches) in March 2019.
Since March 1, Salt Lake City International Airport has had 7.02 inches of precipitation — 42.5 percent of the average amount recorded there annually.
That’s caused the weather service to issue a general warning for Utah rivers, which are running “high, cold and fast” because mid- and high-level snow is melting. Residents are being urged to keep a close eye on children and pets, and reminded that hypothermia develops within minutes if people or animals end up in the water.
Some Utah communities aren’t just hoping the flows recede. In southern Utah’s Garfield County, jail inmates have been filling sandbags to give to cities and homeowners. Sheriff Danny Perkins, in a text message, said he is worried about both the snowpack and water running down the burn scar from the 2017 Brian Head Fire.
Weber Pathways, which maintains hiking and biking trails in Weber County, placed a plea for help on Facebook on Monday. It wanted volunteers to help sandbag around a bridge in the mountain town of Eden. Later in the day, organizers posted photos of sandbags lining the bridge.
The Weber-Ogden drainage area — which includes the Weber and Ogden rivers — is expected to produce stream flows 163 percent of average this year.
Hill has been getting his sandbags from a Utah Department of Transportation station a few miles from his cabin. In previous springs, the Ogden River has risen to his back deck, but it’s never reached the house.
Tribune reporter Scott D. Pierce contributed to this story.