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Uintah Basin Counties Warn Residents Of Flooding Potential, Especially Near Burn Scars

Mar 5, 2019, 8:41 PM | Updated: 8:42 pm

DUCHESNE COUNTY, Utah — There’s a certain peace and calm many people feel when looking at fields of snow.

Normally, Mike Lefler would love seeing so much snow, especially in an agricultural area like Duchesne County.

“The moisture is needed. There’s no doubt about that,” said Lefler.

Mike Lefler, Duchesne County Emergency Management Director

Mike Lefler, Duchesne County Emergency Management Director

However, as the county’s emergency management director, all the snow this season is also causing him to feel a little worried.

“We’ve actually put a lot of word out there on the potential that’s out there,” he said.

Lefler is talking about the potential for flooding.

This past summer, the Dollar Ridge Fire burned close to 70,000 acres in Duchesne County.

Although the fire is long out, the burn scars left behind make flooding a very real possibility as the snow starts to melt.

Mountains above Vernal

Mountains above Vernal

“Our hope is that it comes down relatively slow. That it warms up not real fast,” said Lefler.

The same is true in neighboring Uintah County.

Although Uintah didn’t have a devastating wildfire this past year like Duchesne did, the snow-pack in the mountains is at about 130% of normal.

If the temperatures warm up too fast, that snow melt could cause rivers to flood.

Tal Ehlers, Uintah County Emergency Management Director

Tal Ehlers, Uintah County Emergency Management Director

“We just want people to be cognizant,” said Tal Ehlers, who is the Uintah County Emergency Management director.

It’s impossible to know for sure the rate at which the snow will melt, but those in emergency management, such as Ehlers, will always say it’s better to prepare now instead of waiting until it happens.

“We don’t want people to be taken by surprise,” said Ehlers. “We’d rather be in a mitigation or preparedness phase than a response phase.”

Both county emergency management directors said it’s a good idea for homeowners in flood plains, or by a ditch, canal, or river, to stock up on sandbags now while they are available.

Many home improvement stores have sandbags for sale.

At this point, since an emergency has not been declared, the county only has sandbags to protect county property.

If a disaster happens, the county can use emergency funding to help citizens.

Until then, though, Ehlers says it’s best for residents who are concerned to take the necessary precautions to protect their property.

“Right now, being that we are in mitigation phase, the county does have sandbags that we will utilize to protect critical infrastructure for the county,” said Ehlers. “Private property, though, is just that. Private property. And like carrying insurance on one’s home, it is the homeowner’s responsibility to mitigate their own property.”



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Uintah Basin Counties Warn Residents Of Flooding Potential, Especially Near Burn Scars