Storm hits Southern Utah with a vengeance

WASHINGTON COUNTY — From flash flood warnings to severe thunderstorm alerts, the monsoonal storm that hit Southern Utah Wednesday exceeded expectations as it left roads and buildings flooded, felled trees and kept emergency responders busy.

Rain in Snow Canyon, Ivins, Utah, Aug. 3, 2016 | Photo by Hollie Reina, St. George News
Rain in Snow Canyon, Ivins, Utah, Aug. 3, 2016 | Photo by Hollie Reina, St. George News

Just after 3 p.m. the storm moving into Southern Utah hit Kane County with force, sending emergency personnel to the northern part of Kanab, which was the hardest hit, Kane County Sheriff’s Chief Deputy Alan Alldredge said.

“We are used to quite a bit of rain in the afternoons through July,” he said, “but this was one of those perfect storms that built up and then hit.”

As the storm started bearing down officials attempted to set up an emergency operations center, but the storm came so quickly they had no time, the deputy said. At that point emergency responders communicated by radio and updated each other on their location and the type of incident they were responding to.

Classroom in elementary school filling with water during heavy storm Wednesday, Kanab, Utah, Aug. 3, 2016 | Photo courtesy of Laurie Hulet, St. George News
An elementary school classroom in Kanab is seen filling with water during a heavy storm Wednesday, Kanab, Utah, Aug. 3, 2016 | Photo courtesy of Laurie Hulet, St. George News

“We basically worked closely together and updated each other on where we were headed to next,” Alldredge said, “and that was the command center.”

Northern Kanab was hardest hit as a significant amount of water swept toward town in a very short time. The canyons north of town were inundated with rainfall, which then flowed into business and residential areas very quickly.

Water flooded residential streets and businesses alike, officials said, filling some basements with six to eight feet of water, most of which was mixed with fine silt and sand brought down from the canyons. Several homes and businesses suffered water damage from the flooding, Alldredge said.

At one point so much water was flooding Kanab that a retention dike near the center of town was threatening to fail, officials said. However city workers quickly responded and cut a section out of the retaining wall which allowed water to flow over onto a side street. By relieving the pressure on the wall it was able to withstand the flooding and remained intact.

The City of Kanab put a great deal of effort into implementing drainage systems throughout the area, including replacing pipes and developing retention ponds that are designed to withstand flooding and heavy rainfall, Alldredge said.

“The city put a lot of money and effort into flood control. It really paid off with this storm, as the damage could have been so much worse,” he added.

By 4 p.m. officials and volunteers began filling sand bags and placing them in areas where flooding was at its worst, the deputy said. Eventually about 400 volunteers filled several thousand sand bags – an effort that saved many structures from further damage.

The city was given a boost when Washington County Emergency Services responded to the area with a flood response trailer equipped with several large pumps and safety gear. The large pumps were then used on the homes and businesses with the most significant flooding, authorities said.

“We went to the buildings that suffered the worst of the worst,” Alldredge said, “and pumped the water completely out of those structures.”

Minor injuries were reported, primarily slip and falls, he said.


Flooding began just after 4 p.m. in Rockville, Springdale and Zion. Significant flooding near state Route 9 in Rockville spilled onto the roadways when the Coal Pits Wash gave way, Rockville/Springdale Fire District Chief Ryan Ballard said.

Large branch broke off during storm and split the trunk before falling in the roadway and completely blocking traffic on Main Street in Rockville, Utah, Aug. 3, 2016 | Photo by Cody Blowers, St. George News
A large branch broke off an older tree during the storm, splitting the trunk before falling in the roadway and completely blocking traffic on Main Street in Rockville, Utah, Aug. 3, 2016 | Photo by Cody Blowers, St. George News

Rocks and debris were mixed in with the water which flowed across the roadway, ultimately restricting travel down to a single lane, authorities said.

Meanwhile, further into Rockville traffic was completely blocked when a large branch split off from a tree and fell onto the road, splitting the tree trunk and blocking both directions of traffic, he said.

Emergency personnel quickly responded and cut the branch laying across the roadway into smaller pieces and removed it. Traffic was completely stopped throughout the process, Ballard said, but it was removed quickly.

Heavy flooding was also reported at 800 E. Main Street, which had a big impact on traffic.

Flooding and heavy rainfall were also reported in surrounding areas including Snow Canyon where sudden waterfalls poured over red cliffs and water rushed over roadways.


Just after 7 p.m. the Washington County Search and Rescue team was dispatched to assist with the rescue of possibly two females that were out riding in the Apple Valley area, Sgt. Brock Bentley of the Washington County Sheriff’s Office said.

“All we know is that they headed for Gander Trail, in the direction of Gooseberry Mesa,” Bentley said.

When the storm hit and the women had not returned home, concerned family members called to ask if search and rescue crews could help locate them to make sure they were okay, Bentley said.

Rescuers were then called in to locate the women and make sure they were not injured or stranded, authorities said.

It was later reported by a witness that one female was involved, not two. She was subsequently located by rescuers and was uninjured, but her vehicle was stuck in the mud and she was unable to drive out of the area. Emergency personnel assisted in getting the vehicle out of the mud and the woman was able to drive away on her own.

This report is based on preliminary information provided by law enforcement or other emergency responders and may not contain the full scope of findings.

St. George News Reporters Hollie Reina and Ric Wayman contributed to this report.

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  • debbie August 4, 2016 at 1:28 am

    oh how i hate to see Kanab underwater. such a wonderful town. this is so close to western days which i love to attend.. i really hope they can get it all cleaned up before western days.. kanab being so secluded really does so great with emergency management.. we rented a basement apartment there once and i loved the feel of the basement apartment.. you could sense the rock around you.. the rooms were cool in the dead of the summer.. i would just hate to know that sweet downtown apartment flooded. three more days of rain AND remnants of a hurricane possibly headed up… ugh..

  • .... August 4, 2016 at 5:22 am

    It was quite a storm depending where you’re living. There was damage done but material things can be repaired or replaced. .I’m just glad there was no loss of life. …kudos to SAR

  • .... August 4, 2016 at 5:23 am

    GO RAIDERS !!! GO LADYBUG !!! ♡♡♡♡♡

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