Every newspaper headline and news broadcast in Utah currently leads with dire predictions of and information on spring flooding. Persistent moist weather patterns on top of amazing snow totals have lead to rising waters in virtually every drainage across the state. Flooding is not just a possibility, it is happening and if the moisture patterns continue, as forecasts suggest they will, it will only get worse. On top of that, we are on high alert over the potential for rapid warming resulting in snow melt that will just make the problem worse.
Yesterday, waters in several rivers and canals in northern Utah overflowed and flooded a number of areas. Ruth’s Diner in Emigration Canyon had to close because of flooding across the patios behind the restaurant. A dozen summer structures in Blacksmith Fork Canyon (Cache County) were consumed by water that could not be fended off with sand bags. State Road 101 in the same canyon was closed as water undercut the road base. The bottom line is that flooding is here and the end is not yet in sight.
According to the Red Cross website:
Floods are among the most frequent and costly natural disasters. Conditions that cause floods include heavy or steady rain for several hours or days that saturates the ground. Flash floods occur suddenly due to rapidly rising water along a stream or low-lying area.
Flooding cannot be prevented in many instances, but cautionary steps can be taken to protect life and property. The following succinct listing of tips can be found on the National Geographic website:
Before a Flood
- Avoid building in a floodplain.
- Construct barriers (levees, beams, floodwalls) to stop floodwater from entering your home.
- Seal walls in basements with waterproofing compounds to avoid seepage.
- If a flood is likely in your area, listen to the radio or television for information.
- Know the difference between a flood watch and a flood warning. A watch means flooding is possible. A warning means flooding is occurring or will occur soon.
When a Flood is Imminent
- Be prepared! Pack a bag with important items in case you need to evacuate. Don’t forget to include needed medications.
- If advised to evacuate your home, do so immediately.
- If there is any possibility of a flash flood, move immediately to higher ground.
- If possible, bring in outdoor furniture and move essential items to an upper floor.
- Turn off utilities at the main switches or valves if instructed to do so. Disconnect electrical appliances.
During a Flood
- Do not walk through moving water. As little as 6 inches (15 centimeters) of moving water can make you fall.
- If you have to walk in water, wherever possible, walk where the water is not moving. Use a stick to check the firmness of the ground in front of you.
- Do not drive into flooded areas. If floodwaters rise around your car, abandon the car and move to higher ground if you can do so safely.
- Do not touch electrical equipment if you are wet or standing in water.
After a Flood
- Listen for news reports to learn whether the community’s water supply is safe to drink.
- Avoid floodwaters; water may be contaminated by oil, gasoline, or raw sewage. Water may also be electrically charged from underground or downed power lines.
- Avoid moving water.
- Be aware of areas where floodwaters have receded. Roads may have weakened and could collapse under the weight of a car.
- Stay away from downed power lines, and report them to the power company.
- Return home only when authorities indicate it is safe.
- Stay out of any building if it is surrounded by floodwaters.
- Service damaged septic tanks, cesspools, pits, and leaching systems as soon as possible. Damaged sewage systems are serious health hazards.
- Clean and disinfect everything that got wet. Mud left from floodwater can contain sewage and chemicals.
Source: U.S. Federal Emergency Management Agency
You can’t change the weather, but you can hedge your bets against the consequences.
Bret Hanna of Wrona DuBois in Utah, focuses exclusively on litigating plaintiffs’ medical malpractice and catastrophic personal injury cases. He has represented clients in state and federal courts, in mediations, and in administrative proceedings in Michigan and Utah since 1991.