Heavy rains over the Memorial Day weekend caused flash flooding in the canyons of Southeastern Utah which killed one and endangered several others who are lucky to be alive. Today, The Salt Lake Tribune reported that an Ohio man died yesterday as the result of a whitewater rafting accident on the Colorado River. Dennis Young of Columbus was wearing a helmet and a life jacket when he flipped his raft in the Skull Rapids of Westwater Canyon along the Utah – Colorado border, but he may have been in the water upward of 20 minutes; the suspected cause of death is that Mr. Young passed out because of cold water temperatures and then drowned.
Earlier in the weekend, a large group was in the Kane Creek Canyon recreation area when a wall of water several feet hight came barreling toward a several vehicles on the canyon floor. An adult in the group of 15 saw the approaching water and yelled for everyone to make it to higher ground. The group reported that the wall of water reached a depth of at least 6 feet before it engulfed and swept their vehicles away. Grand County (Utah) search and rescue teams also rescued two other groups stranded by water over the weekend.
Flash floods are unpredictable, fast moving and very dangerous. Several organizations offer excellent information which can be helpful in identifying the risks of flash flooding and tips on what to do if you find yourself in one. One such organization is the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s (NOAA) national severe storms laboratory. Their website indicates that flash floods are the number one weather related killer and that half of all such deaths are automobile related. The website offers the following information on identifying risks:
FLASH FLOOD or FLOOD WATCH:
Flash flooding or flooding is possible within the designated watch area – be alert.
FLASH FLOOD or FLOOD WARNING:
Flash flooding or flooding has been reported or is imminent – take necessary precautions at once!
URBAN and SMALL STREAM ADVISORY:
Flooding of small streams, streets and low-lying areas, such as railroad underpasses and urban storm drains is occurring.
FLASH FLOOD or FLOOD STATEMENT:
Follow-up information regarding a flash flood/flood event.
and the following precaution:
Just six inches of fast-moving flood water can knock you off your feet, and a depth of two feet will float your car! NEVER try to walk, swim or drive through such swift water. STOP! Turn around and go another way.
There is also information on what do when faced with specific types of flash floods:
- Abandon your home immediately if evacuation is recommended, before access is cut off by flood water.
- Get to higher ground.
- You cannot outrun a flash flood.
- Get to higher ground and climb to safety!
- Watch for rapidly rising water.
- Stay away from – and keep children from – drainage ditches and storm drains.
- Do not walk into or near high water.
- Do not camp along streams and washes.
- Get out of areas subject to flooding, including dips, low spots, canyons and washes.
- Avoid already flooded and high velocity flow areas.
- Do not attempt to cross flowing streams where water is above your ankles.
In a vehicle
- NEVER drive into water covering the road. You do not know how deep it is or if the road is washed out.
- Turn around and go the other way!
- Look out for flooding at highway dips, bridges, and low areas.
- If the vehicle stalls, leave it immediately and seek higher ground.
- Be especially cautious at night when it’s harder to recognize flood dangers.
- Do not park your vehicle along streams and washes, particularly during threatening conditions.
Be aware and stay safe!
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.