Cedar City braces for more flash flooding

Aug 18, 2023, 7:41 PM | Updated: 8:57 pm

CEDAR CITY, Utah — Preparations were underway Friday for flash flooding in parts of Southern Utah, as communities like Cedar City work to make sure they don’t get a repeat of what the storms brought Thursday.

Friday afternoon, an Intermountain Cedar City Hospital maintenance employee sat in a skid steer, pushing around dirt to make a trench pathway. Not far from him, a group of maintenance workers stood next to an excavator, hooking large cement blocks up to the scoop. The employee inside carefully lifted each block, setting them down next to each other in a line, one by one.

The crew was building up a wall to block out potential floods.

We’re already looking at the next wave of storms,” said Eric Packer, administrator at Intermountain Cedar City Hospital.

They were working to stop what they couldn’t just a day prior, when rain from intense storms pummeled the town and sent water flowing across roads, and into homes, businesses, schools, the Iron County Sheriff’s Office, and Cedar City Hospital.

“A lot of the damage we sustained in the hospital was actually from water that built up outside, and actually was seeping through the walls or coming in through the doors,” Packer explained.

He said nurses jumped in to lay down sandbags, while also keeping patients safe.

“The areas that we had that were probably the biggest hit were the cancer center. And it’s an area where we do the chemo treatments,” he said. “We’ve been able to cordon off space and able to isolate that, we have barriers up.”

Water also soaked into the area near the operating room, forcing the hospital to push back some elective surgeries on Friday.

Cedar City trench

A newly dug-up, deep trench near Intermountain Cedar City Hospital is supposed to divert flood water away from the building (KSL TV)

In addition to digging trenches and laying down cement barriers, crews have installed pumps and hoses to funnel any water that builds up away from the building.

“Part of what we’ve been doing over the last 24 hours is really trying to get the hospital up and functional,” Packer said.

Not just functional, but also disinfected and sanitized.

Sheriff Ken Carpenter knows all about that.

“When you got sewer coming into your basement, then that creates a problem,” he said.

The sewers bubbled up into the Iron County Sheriff’s Office Thursday, blowing off manhole covers and caps off the end of pipes.

Standing in what was a mostly dried-out basement Friday, he explained how the water rose as high as some of the window sills.

“Eventually it, you know, covered the entire basement,” he said, pointing across the large space that includes a crime lab, evidence room, IT room, and gym.

Every room was impacted in some way.

Cedar City Fire Dept flood trailer

Cedar City Fire Battalion Chief Erick Cox stands in the department’s flood trailer (KSL TV)

Water also leaked through the roof into several areas of the aging jail. Ceiling tiles fell out, and are now missing, while others are sagging and stained.

But at least they didn’t have to evacuate inmates, which the sheriff explained was a real possibility if the flooding was worse.

“They made sure that they got inmates into safe areas where the water wasn’t going in, began to extricate the water as quickly as they could,” he said, of jail staff.

That contingency plan may still come into play, as they look toward storms this weekend and wonder if the building will again flood.

“We’re going to have to start looking at Beaver County, Washington County, Kane County, Garfield County, and see if we can’t start shuttling inmates to other parts of the state,” Sheriff Carpenter said.

One saving grace that Sheriff Carpenter said saved the sheriff’s office and hospital, was the Cedar City Fire flood trailer.

Over at the fire station, Battalion Chief Erick Cox explained that the trailer is stocked with pumps and accessories. The fire department is able to respond anywhere in the area to clean water out.

Water soaked a classroom at East Elementary School

Water soaked a classroom at East Elementary School (Iron County School District)

“We were at the hospital and at the jail. There were several calls through different places in the neighborhoods,” he said. “We were able to go and take some of our other items and put those into place to help direct the water to the drainage channels.”

That trailer is now on standby for this weekend.

“We’re hopeful that we don’t get it as much flooding,” Battalion Chief Cox expressed.

Two schools in the Iron County School District also experienced flooding, class began normally on Friday.

According to Shauna Lund, spokesperson for the school district, waters seeped into East Elementary School and Canyon View Middle School.

Custodial staff worked late Thursday night and early Friday morning before school started to get it all cleaned up.

All classrooms reopened Friday, though Lund said fans and damp carpet remained in a few areas.

Water soaked a classroom at East Elementary School

Water soaked a classroom at East Elementary School (Iron County School District)

Cedar City Hospital hopes if the town does flood again, their work will keep the water away. Work to dry out the impacted rooms continues, and Packer expects everything to be back to normal next week.

“We’re hopeful that the rain isn’t what we experienced before,” he said. “But just in the event it is, we want to make sure we’re prepared.”

Cedar City and Iron County have sandbags available to residents. The locations are:

  • Cedar City Public Works Yard

716 N Airport Road, Cedar City

  • Iron County site

1302 W. Kittyhawk Drive, Cedar City

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Cedar City braces for more flash flooding