Utah Floods – 6 Killed in Zion National Park, Death Toll Rises to 12 in Hildale

The recent flooding in Utah has now claimed 18 lives, with 2 still missing. The deaths occurred in two separate incidents, one in the town of Hildale, on the border with Colorado City, Arizona, the other in Zion National Park. Flooding has also been reported elsewhere in Utah, including Sandy, Provo and Draper.

Hildale

Fast moving flood water from Short Creek swept away two vehicles which were carrying 16 passengers in the town of Hildale, Utah on Monday 14 September 2015. Searchers have located the bodies of 12 victims. Three survived, all believed to be children, and one victim remains missing.

Several intense spells of heavy rain fell in the Hildale area during the afternoon of Monday. Levels of Short Creek rose dramatically in a very short space of time, from virtually zero at noon to over 6 feet just a few hours later.

Rapid rise in levels of Short Creek, Hildale, Utah. Image: NOAA
Rapid rise in levels of Short Creek, Hildale, Utah. Image: NOAA

Flash Floods in Zion National Park

In a separate incident, 7 hikers were caught in flash floods in Zion National Park’s Keyhole Canyon.

On Monday, 0.63 inches of rain was recorded in the area, according to a statement made by Zion National Park. Heavy rainfall falling in a short space of time on the dry, steeps slopes of Zion, resulted in the North Fork of the Virgin River rising from 55 cubic feet per second to 2,630 cubic feet per second in 15 minutes.

The chart below shows how quickly levels of the river rose, from around 7 feet to almost 13 feet in the space of a few minutes.

Levels of Virgin River at North Fork. Image: NOAA
Levels of Virgin River at North Fork. Image: NOAA

The bodies of 6 victims have since been found by search and rescue teams. One remaining member of the group is still missing.

The search operations involved 60 personnel from around a dozen different agencies. Together they contributed over 640 hours in their efforts, as of late yesterday.

“We appreciate the tremendous multi-agency response from local and regional emergency services agencies,””said park superintendent Jeff Bradybaugh. “Together, we have been able to quickly implement an effective and efficient search operation.”

Contaminated Drinking Water

There has been a “boil water advisory” issued for the cities of Hildale, Utah and Colorado City, Arizona. The advisory was issued due to damage to the local water system caused by Monday’s flooding.

Governor’s Message of Condolence

With 18 victims so far, the September flood in Hildale and Zion is the deadliest in Utah’s history. On Tuesday, Governor Gary R. Herbert issued the following statement regarding the flash flooding in Washington County:

“I am heartbroken to hear of the recent tragedy in Washington County. The State of Utah has offered its full resources to the town of Hildale to aid with the search and rescue effort. The Governor’s Office and the Dept. of Public Safety are in close communication with local government and public safety officials in the affected area. Jeanette and I express our sincere condolences to the families of the victims during this difficult time. I offer my thanks to first responders, volunteers and other officials involved in the recovery effort.”

Floods at Hildale, Utah, September 2015. Photo: Washington County Emergency Services
Floods at Hildale, Utah, September 2015. Photo: Washington County Emergency Services
Floods at Hildale, Utah, September 2015. Photo: Washington County Emergency Services
Floods at Hildale, Utah, September 2015. Photo: Washington County Emergency Services
Floods at Hildale, Utah, September 2015. Photo: Washington County Emergency Services
Floods at Hildale, Utah, September 2015. Photo: Washington County Emergency Services