Provo waits and prepares for heavy runoff expected in coming weeks

Apr 14, 2023, 6:21 PM | Updated: Apr 17, 2023, 11:56 am

PROVO, Utah — State and local leaders gathered in Provo Friday to fill sandbags and warn residents about flooding.

“Provo is preparing for the worst but hoping for the best,” Mayor Michelle Kaufusi said.

Provo has a goal of filling 100,000 sandbags by May 1. So far, volunteers and city workers have filled about 45,000 sandbags.

“We’ve made significant infrastructure improvements,” Kaufusi said. “Public work crews are actively mitigating high-risk areas. Protection efforts continue with sandbagging.”


Lt. Gov. Deidre Henderson encouraged residents to study flood maps and prepare for the spring runoff.

“Every community has different needs, different risks,” Henderson said. “Understand the risks in your area.”

The state has already purchased and distributed nearly 1.5 million sandbags and has placed an order for 500,000 more, according to Henderson’s office.

“We’ve got a lot of water up in those mountains that’s going to be coming down,” Henderson said.

There are several areas of concern in Provo, including homes along the Provo River, and also snowmelt flowing out of several frontal canyons — Slate Canyon, Rock Canyon and Little Rock Canyon.


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.

Unlike areas north of Utah County that have already seen flooding, Provo is still waiting for the rapid runoff to start because of the higher elevations of its snowpack.

“You can look at the peaks behind Provo City,” said Dave Decker, Provo’s public works director. “They are very high peaks, and so we tend to anticipate a little bit later response than some of those low elevation watersheds.”

Right now, Decker said Provo River is running higher than normal because of releases from Deer Creek and Jordanelle reservoirs. The river is currently at 500 cubic feet per second — far below what was seen in 2017 and 2019 when the river was flowing at approximately 1,800 cubic feet per second.

Decker said he expects the frontal canyons above the city to start flowing with water next week.

“Probably early weeks of May where we’re going to start to see significant increases in the flow,” he said. “That’s probably the major flood event that we anticipate.”

Provo is providing 25 sandbags per resident. They are available at the Public Works building located at 1377 S. 350 East. The city also has sand available. Residents need to bring their own shovel to fill the sandbags.

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Provo waits and prepares for heavy runoff expected in coming weeks