Panguitch area residents urged to be alert, prepared for evacuation after latest assessment at dam

Apr 9, 2024, 8:16 PM | Updated: Apr 10, 2024, 10:15 am

PANGUITCH — A Level 2 Emergency Situation has been posted for Panguitch Lake Dam while people in the area are urged to be prepared and alert for the possibility of evacuation. Earlier Tuesday, access to the dam, which still has snow and ice on it, was restricted, along with access to state Route 143.

“It is a precautionary measure aimed at ensuring the safety and well-being of all residents in the vicinity,” the Garfield County Sheriff’s Office said.

The situation was elevated to Level 2, according to the sheriff’s office, at approximately 6 p.m. Tuesday after the latest assessments by a “team of experts.” Level 3 would mean an evacuation in the area. Panguitch Creek flows from Panguitch Lake to the city of Panguitch.

The city’s population was a little less than 2,000 at the 2020 census, while it is currently listed at 1,840 by

Transverse cracking was observed on the upper portion of the dam on Monday. The Utah Department of Transportation has closed a 17-mile stretch of S.R. 143 from Panguitch to just below the lake. S.R. 143 remains open above the lake to Brian Head and Parowan.

The Level 2 designation means there is a potential for dam failure. The office said:

Our teams are working tirelessly to monitor the situation and implement all necessary precautions. We urge the public to remain vigilant, follow all safety instructions, and prepare for the possibility of evacuation.

“While there is no immediate threat to public safety, the situation could rapidly evolve. We are closely monitoring the dam and are prepared to escalate our response if necessary,” the office said.

The flash flood watch covers parts of the southern mountains and upper Sevier River valleys, including communities like Alton, Kane County; Brian Head; Circleville, Piute County; Koosharem, Sevier County; and Panguitch. It remains in place “until further notice.”

Residents of Panguitch and the surrounding areas are urged to be prepared for a possible evacuation if the situation is evaluated at level 3. The office said residents should be prepared in the following ways:

  • Stay Informed: Follow updates from official channels. We will communicate through all available resources, including reverse 911 calls, social media platforms, and local news outlets.
  • Evacuation Plan: Familiarize yourself with evacuation routes. Should evacuation be necessary, residents should proceed east towards Hatch as the primary evacuation route.
  • Emergency Kits: Ensure your emergency kits are ready and contain essential items such as water, food, medications, and important documents.
  • Inform Others: Please take some time to notify family, friends, and neighbors in the area to ensure they are prepared and have any assistance that may be needed.

“Please know that if a failure occurs, we feel there is plenty of time to conduct an orderly evacuation before the water reaches Panguitch,” the sheriff’s office said.

The lake was a natural lake that was turned into a reservoir through a series of water projects, starting as early as 1885, according to the state.

Panguitch Lake is situated at an elevation of 8,212 feet approximately 18 miles southwest of Panguitch, Utah. (U.S. Forest Service)

The Utah Division of Water Resources said the reservoir was 87% full and holding nearly 19,500 acre-feet of water on Tuesday morning.

The reservoir is also a popular fishing spot in the region. It’s home to rainbow trout, Bear Lake cutthroat trout and tiger trout, according to the Utah Division of Wildlife Resources. The DWR on Wednesday issued an emergency fishing closure at the lake.

Contributing: Debbie Worthen, KSL TV, and Carter Williams,

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Panguitch area residents urged to be alert, prepared for evacuation after latest assessment at dam