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Snow Pack, Warm Temps Pose Potential Flooding Problems

COTTONWOOD HEIGHTS, Utah – The combination of a near-record snow pack over the winter, and stormy, warm weather this spring could lead to severe flooding in Utah. The right weather conditions, however, could also keep creeks from becoming unmanageable.

Flood watches and warning have been issued for parts of Utah as additional storms and warmer weather move through the state.

In Salt Lake County, Big and Little Cottonwood Creeks have been running fast, roaring down the canyons at their highest levels in years.

Uneasiness Over Big & Little Cottonwood Creeks

The city of Sandy has been put on alert, as water in Little Cottonwood Creek continues to rise. City officials posted a message on social media Friday, saying crews were out monitoring the waterways.

Sandbags have also been made available for residents who may already be experiencing high waters.

Big Cottonwood Creek has caused concern in Cottonwood Heights. Safety officials sent out a warning Friday to stay away from rushing water.

They reminded everyone that the creek has been running fast and cold.

Sandbags have been made available at the Cottonwood Heights public heights.

Emery County Flooding

Waters have been flowing over roads and crossings in Emery County near the Millsite Reservoir.

The Emery County Sheriff’s Office has warned members of the public recreating in the area to use extreme caution near waterways and riverbanks.

They said the waters were high, fast, extremely cold – and some creeks can contain debris from last summer’s wildland fires.

Eastern Utah

In Eastern Utah, the Duchesne River was expected to remain above flood stage early into next week.

A flood warning was issued near Myton. The county has placed miles of sand bags

Hoping For The Right Weather Conditions

Hydrologist Brian McInerney with the NWS in Salt Lake City said the right weather at just the right time should continue to keep rivers from flooding – just as it did a week ago.

“We expect this to go up a little more,” he said. “What we’ve got is cloud cover, and we’ve got cold temperatures for the next four days.“

The Cottonwood Creeks were very close to flooding just last week. If not for that cool down and cloud cover, McInerney said Little Cottonwood Creek would have flooded in neighborhoods in Murray and elsewhere in the central valley.

“If we would have kept those same temperature levels and clear skies, we would have exceeded flood stage last weekend,” he said.

However, there were still a few very few problems.

“Our rivers, even though they’re really high right now, this is across the state, we really haven’t seen any type of major flooding, even moderate flooding,“ he said.

There’s still about 18 inches of snow water equivalent in the highest elevations along the Wasatch Front. What remains to be seen is whether that’s enough snow to fuel high flows In the rivers and creeks down below.

“Now the question is, before it gets really hot, are we going to run out of snow so we can’t fuel these high river flows?“ said McInerney.

Whether the rivers flood during peak flows depends on cloud cover, temperatures, and the amount of snow.

“We take all three of those with probably some other variables, and we try to figure out, is it going to reach these flows?“ McInerney said.

It is still too early to rule out flooding next week, he said, even though it does not look likely.
“There are so many variables that are yet accounted for, and it might come to a game time decision,’” said the hydrologist. “What’s the temperature today? What’s the cloud cover today? What’s the amount of snow?“

In some neighborhoods that could be the difference for property damage.

“That’s still a day-to-day assessment,“ McInerney said.

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