Be Careful on the Road!

Be sure to stay vigilante of weather reports and stay off the road as much as possible because injury and death tolls are rising in Utah as a result of flash flooding. Many cars are being swept away. Several people are missing. Be sure to stay safe and keep your eye on the weather.

Flash flooding in southern Utah has killed at least 16 people since Monday night; four others remain missing. 

Twelve of those deaths are in the small Utah border community of Hildale after a flash flood swept through the town. A vehicle carrying three women and 13 children was swept away, and only three children survived. Washington County Emergency Services told The Weather Channel one person is still missing, and it is unclear whether the individual is an adult or child.

People rushed to the scene when the cars finally came to a stop downstream. What they saw was gruesome; dead bodies were strewn everywhere and the vehicles that once held them were crumpled and mangled, almost beyond recognition. But somehow, they found one boy who survived the ordeal, standing nearby.

“The little boy was standing there,” Yvonne Holm told the Associated Press. “He said, ‘Are you guys going to help me?'”

(MORE: Flash Flood Danger of Vehicles)

Some 20 miles to the north, the AP reported four people were killed by flash flooding in Zion National Park and three remain missing. Up to 1.89 inches of rain was measured in the park over the past two days as of Tuesday morning at an elevation of 5,741 feet, according to the National Weather Service. Officials have not yet released the identities of those killed or missing.

Utah Gov. Gary Herbert expressed his sorrow in a statement, lamenting, “I join with other Utahns in mourning today the lives lost in two tragic incidents at Zion National Park and Hildale. Jeanette and I send our thoughts and prayers to the families and friends of those who have lost loved ones. I thank the first responders, volunteers and other officials involved in the recovery effort.” 

The situation in Hildale has shocked the community. Flooding started overnight and “obviously caught these people off guard,” Hildale assistant fire chief Kevin Barlow told The AP. “Witnesses say they were backing out of it trying to get away from it and it still swept them in.”


A vehicle rests in debris after a flash flood in Hildale, Utah. (Mark Lamont via AP) 

    Three people survived as the flash flooding washed the vehicles several hundred yards downstream about 5 p.m. MDT. One survivor was found downstream at a bank in town. One survivor remained hospitalized overnight, Washington County Emergency Services reported. Six of the deceased were located in Utah and two in Arizona, almost 2 1/2 miles downstream.

    In light of the tragedy, Herbert warned residents and tourists, “Today’s tragedy also serves as a reminder to residents and those visiting our state to take appropriate precautions and be aware of the factors that contribute to dangerous flash floods. This includes strong thunderstorms and intense rainfall that can take place over several hours or even just a few minutes.”

    Authorities say that around 150 people from county, state and federal agencies, 500 community volunteers, and six or seven search dogs are working at search and rescue efforts in Hildale and its sister town across the Arizona border, Colorado City. 

    Herbert released a statement Tuesday morning indicating that state officials are in close communication with local government and public safety officials in the affected area and offered the full resources of the state to the town of Hildale to aid with the search and rescue effort. The Utah National Guard has been mobilized and is expected to arrive late Tuesday afternoon, Lieutenant Governor Spencer Cox, said at a press conference.


    Zoom-in of Hildale, Utah, and Colorado City, Arizona, highlighting Short Creek and the canyon northeast of Hildale.  (Google Earth)

      According to the NWS in Salt Lake City, the deadliest single flash flood on record in Utah prior to Monday’s event was an August 13, 1923 flood near Farmington, claiming seven lives. 

      The towns sit at the foot of picturesque red rock cliffs about 315 miles south of Salt Lake City. The floods came after heavy rains fell in the canyons just north of the towns, sending waves of water barreling through the streets.

      “This hit with a vengeance we haven’t seen for some time,” Barlow told NBC.

      The women and children were on a gravel road north of the towns, Barlow said. It appears they were coming back from a park in the area when the flash flood hit, he said.

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