By CAMERON ALDE
At 2:30 a.m. on Wednesday a severe avalanche tore through the Bridal Veil Falls area, completely destroying two structures and damming the Provo River causing a flood warning that evacuated the nearby Springdell area.
David Grow, owner of the Bridal Veil Falls canyon attraction, said, “There isn’t much left. The Wild-Flower Gift Shop has been completely wiped out and even though the tram cables are still intact, by the looks of the damage to the tram equipment it will all need to be replaced.”
The vending structure near the gift shop many know as the ‘caboose’ was carried away by the snow. “We don’t even know where that is. It’s either crushed by the snow or in the river somewhere.”
“We had an avalanche back in 1986 that destroyed our snack bar, but that’s nothing compared to this,” Grow said.
Grow estimated damage at upwards of $200,000 for the caboose alone. “I don’t even want to think about the total damage, but from what we’ve seen the costs of rebuilding will be beyond our resources.”
Captain Ron Fernstedt, Utah County Sheriff’s Office, said the avalanche looks to be 60-feet deep by one-fourth mile wide.
“Fortunately the Falls area has been closed and no one was passing by when it happened,” Fernstedt said.
Cathryn Sheen, a mother and resident of the Springdell area, said, “We woke up at around 5 a.m. to pounding on our door and lights going on and off.”
Police informed the Springdell residents of the avalanche and flood danger caused by a small lake that had begun to form above the natural dam from the avalanche snow.
“We were told to grab our children and evacuate as soon as possible,” Sheen said.
As Sheen and her family drove away she said she remembered thinking, “Will I ever see this wonderful house again?”
During all the commotion and rush, Sheen remembered the 72-hour kit they put together a few weeks ago, “At times like this even small preparations seem priceless, the first thing you ask yourself is ‘are we ready for this?'”
Jenny Bird, a 22-year-old UVSC student and Springdell resident, said everyone’s vehicles were getting stuck in the exodus. “The hardest part of leaving was digging your car out.”
“The neatest thing was how the whole neighborhood helped each other out. Everywhere you looked there were neighbors digging each others cars out and helping to load children and pets aboard vehicles.” Sheen said.
“That’s just how this small community is, everyone is really close,” Sheen said.
Not everyone in the community felt distraught about the early morning evacuation. Sheen’s 9-year-old daughter, Mercedes, put on her best dress and excitedly asked, “Does this mean we don’t have school today?”
The Red Cross set up a shelter at the LDS Edgemont North Stake, 4300 N. Canyon Road, Provo, where about 35 to 50 people have checked in.
Chloe Langston, Health and Safety Director for the Provo Red Cross, said, “People were allowed to go back to their houses at 11:00 and everyone was very appreciative of the support and hot food.”
Other Springdell residents checked into local motels or stayed with local friends or family.
The Provo Canyon was closed to all vehicle and pedestrian traffic as a precaution, but it was reopened at 11 a.m.