Video Shows How Fast Deadly Flash Flooding Filled Slot Canyon

May 12, 2020, 8:03 PM | Updated: Jun 13, 2022, 4:53 pm

SALT LAKE CITY, Utah – Two children hiking in one of Utah’s most popular slot canyons were killed after a sudden storm caused flash flooding, washing the girls away. Another hiker, who happened to be a weather researcher, shot video of the flash flood as the water surged.

The hike in the Little Wild Horse Canyon of Emery County turned deadly quickly on Monday.

KSL took a look at that video with a rescuer who knows the canyon well, and who was surprised by the timing of that storm.

“We probably would have kept an eye on the sky while we were in the canyon,” said Todd Taylor, a volunteer with Salt Lake County Search and Rescue team. “The weather report ahead of time would not have discouraged us from being in the canyon or being near Goblin Valley, at all.”

The potential for thunderstorms is the greatest concern on most hikes, on most days, throughout Utah, he said.

That thunderstorm Monday, this time of year, came as a surprise to hikers and climbers who know the canyon well.

Tom Gowan shot video of the rising water in Little Wild Horse Canyon after he scrambled to higher ground to get away from the surging water. He later posted it on social media and shared it with KSL TV.

“I can’t believe this literally just happened,” you can hear him say on the video as the water rises below.

“I’m just happy that we turned around,” replied one of his hiking partners.

Gowan is a weather researcher, working on a doctorate at the University of Utah.

He said his group knew the chance of heavy, rain-producing thunderstorms was low. When they heard thunder, they got out of the slots. As they retreated, the storm unloaded — heavy rain turned into nickel-sized hail. Gowan called it “scary stuff,” and said the river went from a dry wash to a raging river in 15 minutes.

“They needed to be able to get out of danger in a hurry,” said Taylor. “They did a good job. They were prepared to stay at higher ground for several hours.”

On the video, Gowan says, “We’re going to be here a bit. We have to wait a few hours, it’s the best decision.”

The weather is always Taylor’s first concern on any hike, especially in a slot canyon.

A thunderstorm was not expected Monday.

“This time of year, it’s not a major concern for us: the weather,” he said. “So, yesterday, what happened really caught a lot of people by surprise.”

When you are heading out on any hike, always tell someone exactly where you are going and when you will be back. That is especially critical in places like slot canyons where there is no phone service.

Taylor always takes enough food, water and sun protection for the day in addition to his maps, or GPS.

He also prepares to spend the night if he must. Even with proper preparation, the weather at times can be overwhelming.

“The slot canyon that filled with water and debris surprised them and surprised me that it could happen in the middle of May with the forecast we had,” he said.

KSL 5 TV Live

Top Stories

Local News

The suspect motor home that abducted a woman. (Credit: South Salt Lake Police)...
Michael Houck

Police cancel search for possible abduction suspect

South Salt Lake Police are searching for a motorhome that possibly abducted a woman Saturday evening.
18 hours ago
Michael Houck

Bush fire spreads to carport and sheds, no injuries

A brush fire destroyed a carport and two sheds Saturday evening, no one was hurt, and no homes were threatened.
18 hours ago
The semi that's blocking traffic on I-80. (Credit: UDOT)...
Michael Houck

Semi tips, blocks traffic on I-80 in Summit County

A semitrailer tipped over on Interstate 80, reducing eastbound traffic to one lane.
18 hours ago
Navajo Nations Veterans Administration Director James Zwierlein, Navajo Nation President Jonathan N...
NOEL LYN SMITH Farmington Daily Times

Navajo Nation authorized to file benefit claims for veterans

The Navajo Nation Veterans Administration was formally recognized by the head of the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs for being the first tribal nation program to receive accreditation to help veterans submit federal benefits claims directly to the VA.
18 hours ago
Police responded to a shooting at 1485 South Major Street Sunday morning. (KSL TV)...
Cary J. Schwanitz, KSL TV

Salt Lake Police investigate shooting at 1485 South Major Street Sunday morning.

Salt Lake City Police are investigating a shooting near Main Street early Sunday morning.
18 hours ago
Teens playing with fireworks started a dumpster fire in Murray Saturday night. (Mountain Green Fire...
Cary J. Schwanitz, KSL TV

Teens playing with fireworks start dumpster fire in Morgan County

Firefighters said some teens setting off fireworks started a small dumpster fire in Murray Saturday night.
18 hours ago

Sponsored Articles

hand holding 3d rendering mobile connect with security camera for security solutions...
Les Olson

Wondering what security solutions are right for you? Find out more about how to protect your surroundings

Physical security helps everyone. Keep your employees, clients, and customers safe with security solutions that protect your workplace.
Many rattan pendant lights, hay hang from the ceiling.Traditional and simple lighting....
Lighting Design

The Best Ways to Style Rattan Pendant Lighting in Your Home

Rattan pendant lights create a rustic and breezy feel, and are an easy way to incorporate this hot trend into your home decor.
Earth day 2022...

How Are You Celebrating Earth Day 2022? | 4 Simple Ways to Celebrate Earth Day and Protect the Environment

Earth Day is a great time to reflect on how we can be more environmentally conscious. Here are some tips for celebrating Earth Day.
Get Money Online...

More Ways to Get Money Online Right Now in Your Spare Time

Here are 4 easy ways that you can get more money online if you have some free time and want to make a little extra on the side.
Lighting trends 2022...

Lighting Trends 2022 | 5 Beautiful Home Lighting Trends You Can Expect to See this Year and Beyond

This is where you can see the latest lighting trends for 2022 straight from the Lightovation Show at the Dallas World Trade Center.
What Can't You Throw Away in the Trash...

What Can’t You Throw Away in the Trash? | 5 Things You Shouldn’t Throw in to Your Trash Can

What can't you throw away in the trash? Believe it or not, there are actually many items that shouldn't be thrown straight into the trash.
Video Shows How Fast Deadly Flash Flooding Filled Slot Canyon