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Thunderstorms Cause Flooding Concern In Wildfire-Scarred Areas

SALT LAKE CITY, Utah – Thunderstorms moving through the state have put meteorologists from the National Weather Service on high alert for the chance of flash flooding in area devastated by wildfires in the last year.

Folks around the state have turned their eyes to sky, as another round of thunderstorms have been forecast for Utah. For those who live near a recent wildfire, the danger of flash flooding on the burn scar has become very real.

Meteorologists have watched closely, and are ready to sound the alarms that come through weather radios and the Emergency Alert System on broadcast TV and radio stations.

Those severe weather warnings have come from the National Weather Service office in Salt Lake City. It is where Brian McInerney and other forecasters have watched the burn scar of the last summer’s Brian Head fire very closely. The blaze caused destruction to a widespread area, which has again put the community of Parowan in danger.

“They are overjoyed that the fire is out, but you now have three years of debris flows that you have to worry about. Roughly after three years, the burn heals itself,” McInerney said.

It wasn’t just Brian Head, but the Trail Mountain fire in Emery County, the West Valley Fire in Southern Utah and the Dollar Ridge Fire in Duchesne County, that NWS forecasters focused on.

“We’ve got all of this technology to get an early warning to all of the people of Utah – to make sure they are safe and that you need to take action,” he added.

The risk in Utah of a flash flood or mud flow from a burn scar, has become the highest it has been in six years.

“Prior to this year we didn’t have many burn scars we had to worry about. Back in 2012, we had five major burn scars that we had to watch for debris flows, and then they healed up after three years,” he said.

Forecasters established contacts with local officials so they can take preventative action.

“So we call them and tell them we are with the weather service, this is what we have got going, and they know who we are and why we are calling and they get better information and they can warn the people,” said McInerney.

Weather forecasters hoped people will take the warnings seriously so they can stay safe.

“These things are massive, they have tons of energy and they are wickedly dangerous,” McInerney said.

Forecasters said the risk of flash flooding from thunderstorms will continue for the next several weeks, likely through the end of September.

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