UDOT: Wet slides could return to canyons as spring melt heats up

Apr 28, 2023, 9:04 AM

SALT LAKE CITY — As temperatures continue to rise after a record-breaking snowpack, experts are worried about more than just flooding.

Debris has been stopping cars, blocking roadways and clogging drainage systems.

Officials with the Utah Department of Transportation told KSL TV they are prepared with heavy equipment and 180,000 filled sandbags in the case of flooding.

Tackling the debris is something they have also been preparing for.

“Every year, we survey areas prone to wet slides and falling debris. We study these areas and follow up,” said UDOT spokesperson Mitch Shaw. “For example in Provo Canyon earlier this year, we blasted out some rocks that were at risk for falling.”

A longer winter made spring avalanche conditions extreme.

“The soil is way softer this year. The earth is moving and displacing trees,” Shaw said. “Our crews are working tirelessly to clear pathways and culverts.”

Thursday, UDOT crews cleared major debris from American Fork Canyon. Earlier this week crews worked on debris removal projects in Ogden Canyon and an unexpected cleanup from a wet slide in Big Cottonwood Canyon.

READ MORE — Utah Flood Watch: KSL’s complete coverage

“Mother Nature is a different beast entirely,” Shaw said. “Over the mountain in Eden and Huntsville, there’s still 4 feet of snow on the ground.”

UDOT officials urged drivers to be mindful in higher elevations and near waterways.

Responders reminded drivers if a wet slide occurs in a canyon, the canyon will be shut down for cleanup.

“Be prepared for prolonged travel. Driving in and out of canyons may be restricted – even if you are already up the canyon,” Shaw said.

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UDOT: Wet slides could return to canyons as spring melt heats up