Wild weather peppers Utah with flash floods, severe thunderstorms

Aug 17, 2023, 12:48 PM | Updated: 4:15 pm


A storm moved across the Salt Lake Valley Thursday, Aug. 17, 2023, as viewed from the University of Utah. (Elynn Bentley)

(Elynn Bentley)

UPDATE: Severe thunderstorm raged across the Wasatch Front Thursday with warnings issued by the National Weather Service at the same time flash flood warnings were in place in some of Utah’s national parks and on its burn scars. Friday, much of southern Utah and central Utah is under a flood watch and on the weekend or next week the remnants of a hurricane could move into parts of Utah.

Sever thunderstorm warnings

Hazardous wind gusts up to 60 mph were warned about with possible hail in a zone that stretched from southern Utah County, north to Bountiful.

“Expect damage to roofs, siding and trees,” NWS aid of the warning for a storm centered near Utah Lake, 10 miles northwest of Payson. The storm would also threaten drivers on Interstate 15 with the evening commute.

Severe thunderstorms moved in the Salt Lake area and Utah County Thursday afternoon, Aug. 17, 2023. (Chris Williams)

Those in or near Utah Lake were warned to get away from water and move inside a structure or inside a vehicle.

“Remember, lightning can strike out to 15 miles from a parent thunderstorm. If you can hear thunder, you are close enough to be struck by lightning,” NWS said. “Move to safe shelter now. Do not be caught on the water in a thunderstorm.”

UPDATE: In addition to a flood watch issued for portions of Utah for Friday, a series of flash flood warnings was issued for Thursday afternoon that are currently or expected to bring life-threatening conditions.


Areas with active flash flood warnings Thursday are:

  • Capitol Reef National Park
  • Near Duchesne
  • Escalante
  • Zion National Park

Those encountering flooded roads are urged to turn around and not to drive through floods.

“Most flood deaths occur in vehicles,” NWS said.

“Doppler radar estimated rainfall between 1.5 and 2.5 inches of rain occurred from earlier thunderstorms,” NWS said. This is expected to produce life threatening flash flooding of creeks, streams and normally dry washes, including central Garfield County near Escalante, NWS said.

Less rain fell near the Dollar Ridge burn scar in west central Duchesne County and southeastern Wasatch County. The rains there will create debris flow through Strawberry River including rock, mud, vegetation and lose materials. Locations that will experience flash flooding include Promised Land Resort downstream to Starvation Reservoir.

People are urged to move away from burned areas.

“Heavy rains will likely trigger rockslides, mudslides and debris flows in steep terrain,” NWS said.

Radar picked up rain around Zion in Keyhole Canyon, Clear Creek, Spry Canyon and Pine Creek. These floods are expected in creeks, streams, slot canyons and normally dry washes and are described as life threatening.

“Remain alert for flooding even in locations not receiving rain,” NWS said. “Dry washes, stream and rivers can become raging killer currents in a matter of minutes, even from distant rainfall. Flooding is occurring or is imminent. Campers and hikers should avoid streams and creeks.”

Capitol Reef National Park, Torrey and Fruita are also under flash flood wanrings with life-threatening floods expected. The highest rain totals there were over Sulphur Creek and Grand Wash.

“Flash flooding is ongoing or expected to begin shortly,” NWS said.

Friday’s flood warnings remain in effect.


SALT LAKE CITY — Portions of central and southern Utah, including popular recreation areas, are part of a flood watch issued by the National Weather Service ahead of a monsoon surge that will push into the state.

The Salt Lake City office of the NWS issued the flood watch late Thursday morning in effect Friday afternoon through evening. The areas expected to experience flash flooding due to rain are heavily used for recreation but flash flooding is also possible in urban areas.

Flash floods have previously proved deadly in Utah.

The following areas are under the flood watch:

  • Central mountains
  • Sevier Valley
  • Bryce Canyon Country
  • Capitol Reef National Park and vicinity
  • Lake Powell / Glen Canyon Recreation area
  • South central Utah
  • Southern mountains
  • Upper Sevier River valleys
  • Western Canyonlands
  • Lower Washington County
  • Southwest Utah
  • Zion National Park

Impacts are expected to include heavy rainfall causing flash flooding of slot canyons, normally dry washes, recent burn scars, creeks, stream and other low-lying and flood-prone locations, according to NWS.

“An ongoing monsoon surge combined with a series of weather disturbances crossing the state will bring an increased threat of flash flooding,” NWS said. “You should monitor later forecasts and be alert for possible flood warnings.”

Crews Begin Cleanup Work After Flash Flooding In Zion NP, southern Utah

This includes the cities of:

  • Alton
  • Beaver
  • Big Water
  • Brian Head
  • Bryce Canyon City
  • Bullfrog
  • Cedar City
  • Circleville
  • Cove Fort
  • Escalante
  • Fish Lake
  • Hanksville
  • Hurricane
  • Ivins
  • Joes Valley
  • Kanab
  • Koosharem
  • Loa
  • Milford
  • Panguitch
  • Richfield
  • Salina
  • St. George
  • Springdale
  • Torrey

“Those living in areas prone to flooding should be prepared to take action should flooding develop,” NWS said.

Video shows how fast deadly flash flooding filled slot canyon

Meanwhile, in a long-range forecast, decaying Hurricane Hilary could be the first tropical storm to hit the L.A. basin since 1939, according to KSL TV meteorologist Matthew Johnson.

He said models are predicting 6” to 9” of rain in southern California mountains. He said a swath of rain will also impact Nevada and Utah early next week as well.

rain map

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Wild weather peppers Utah with flash floods, severe thunderstorms