Iron County takes steps to prevent damage from flash floods

Aug 25, 2022, 7:58 PM | Updated: 8:39 pm

Iron County crews racing against the next flash flood watch or warning as they work to cut down on the potential for damage from flash floods.

A KSL 5 TV crew toured projects around the county Thursday, from up in the mountains down to communities around Cedar City and Parowan.

Thursday afternoon at the far end of a field off Old Highway 91 outside Parowan, a track hoe dug up dirt and dumped it next to a culvert that ran alongside a neighborhood. The operator cut into the ditch, widening the channel and strengthened the walls with chunks of concrete.

It’s one of many channels in the county that Iron County Emergency Manager George Colson explained they’ve been dredging and deepening.

A year ago, some of those ditches were no match for Mother Nature. Historic flash floods crashed down nearby canyons, overtaking the culverts and drainages and spilling onto roads, filling up fields, and heavily damaging homes.

“Last year around this time had what was a 500-year flood event and we were not prepared,” Colson said. “And we determined very quickly even as the flooding was going on that we needed to do something to mitigate that, and we were concerned that this year would be just as bad.”

A year later, the damage is still evident in some neighborhoods, where piles of dirt dot front yards and flood lines mar white fences.

Since then, Colson talked about how they’ve been constantly working to make sure the channels can handle any future flash floods.

They’ve worked on channels like Coal Creek, all the way up into the mountains where Colson said the worst of the flooding began. They have re-worked and reinforced many areas, and parked heavy equipment near pressure points in case of any problems this year.

Volunteers have helped the county by filling thousands of sandbags that the county now keeps on hand in a shipping container at all times, available for anyone to take.

Colson explained that they trucked sand and bags out to some of the communities, so that sandbags can be available at multiple locations.

This monsoon season, Colson said the National Weather Service has kept him on speed dial so they can get ahead of any issues.

“They call me practically every day that there’s going to be heavy storms, or I’m on the phone to them,” Colson said. “We both watch the clouds, especially over the mountains.”

This year, Iron County hasn’t seen the flooding they saw in 2021.

But if something were to happen, Colson indicated that they’re better prepared.

“Absolutely, we’ll be in better shape,” Colson said. “Even if it still floods, we’ll be in better shape than we were last year simply because of the work we’ve done since then.”

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Iron County takes steps to prevent damage from flash floods