Provo prepares for spring runoff and flooding

Mar 27, 2023, 6:54 PM | Updated: Apr 17, 2023, 11:52 am

PROVO, Utah — Record-breaking snowpack in the canyons above Provo has prompted the city to prepare for heavy spring runoff and potential flooding.

The city’s Flood Preparation Committee has been meeting weekly since February, and city officials report that their response plan is ready.

“Provo City is prepared for potential flooding,” Mayor Michelle Kaufusi said in a press release earlier this month. “Our expert crews are doing the preparation work necessary to safeguard potential flood areas while being properly supplied with sandbags and equipment to quickly respond.”

Public works employees on Monday filled sandbags that will be loaded onto pallets for the city to use during a flooding event. Next week, volunteer organizations are scheduled to fill more sandbags for the city.

Provo Public Works Director Dave Decker told KSL TV that the snowpack will grow more worrisome if it continues to stay cold and wet this spring and then suddenly heat up in May.

“That’s probably the worst case scenario for the spring runoff — we get 90 degree weather in the valley, that’s going to melt the snow really quickly,” he said.

Also on Monday, crews worked along the Provo River, using heavy equipment to remove dead logs, gravel and sand from the river to maximize water flow.

“We’re really concerned about debris in the river,” Decker said. “It will get up on a bridge or a tree on the side, and then it just catches more debris, and if you get that going on and you can’t clear it out, you’re in trouble in a big hurry.”

The Provo River is just one of the areas of concern, especially west of Interstate 15, where homes built in low-lying areas are protected by levees.

The city is also watching Slate Canyon, Rock Canyon and Little Rock Canyon, which have flooded before.

“In really heavy runoff, they can carry a lot of water,” Decker said. “We’re worried about those frontal canyons flooding as well as the Provo River.”

Floodwaters coming out of Slate Canyon in 1984 required crews and volunteers to build a sandbag channel with over 90,000 sandbags. It included two bridges for cars and eight pedestrian bridges.

“We sent that stream of water down 3rd South in Provo,” Decker recalled. “Very similar to what you saw in Salt Lake City in 1983 where we had to line the street basically with sandbags.”

Flooding from Slate Canyon in 1984.

In the nearly 40 years since that flooding, Decker said the city has made significant improvements to its storm water system, including installing debris basins and a large pipe to carry water out of Slate Canyon.

“We are currently planning and coordinating with internal and external agencies to prepare for any type of flood emergency, including identifying areas with the biggest flood risk and developing routes to divert water to protect the residents and homes,” Decker said in the press release.

Provo residents can stop by the public works building, located at 1377 S. 350 East, and pick up empty sandbags for use around their property. The city has sand available for residents to fill their own sandbags.

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Provo prepares for spring runoff and flooding