Dixie flooding disaster


    By Kathryn Jackson

    ST GEORGE ? Communities in Southern Utah rallied together this weekend after flooded rivers receded, revealing an estimated $170 million in damage, severe erosion and for some residents, only a pair of clothes to their name.

    In what city officials are calling the worst disaster St. George has ever had, 24 homes have been destroyed and 36 damaged.

    ?It will be a three to five year battle to get the town back to normal,? said Scott Hansen, firefighter with the St. George Fire Department, as he overlooked a collapsed bridge in Green Valley, which once ran over a tiny stream ? The Santa Clara River.

    Just last week the river was down the street from local homeowner Lisa Lindsey. Tuesday night, it came to her front doorstep.

    Lindsey, a resident of Holliday, spotted her St. George vacation home on the news last week when she decided the flood was serious enough for her and her husband to drive down to the area.

    ?It was definitely a moment of panic,? Lindsey said, standing in her front yard near dump trucks moving sand and boulders into the river. ?You feel so invisible and strong. You have these strong families and you build these homes. But there?s nothing you can do with Mother Nature.?

    Nature surely took its course during the flooding in Southern Utah last week, but as the cleanup and rebuilding began this weekend, Utahns proved they can overcome a disastrous flood.

    While other Utah residents vacationed for the three-day weekend, Bill and Teresa Evans of Murray drove south to help flood victims.

    ?We had been watching the news every night and thought, ?Let?s see if we can help,?? Evans said, dragging sandbags to the side yard of Lindsey?s home.

    Just down the road, local Snow Canyon High School students stood on a St. George Blvd. intersection holding ?Funds for Flooded Families? posters and donation bags.

    ?We?ve gotten drivers dropping in hundred dollar bills even,? said Brittany Cochran, 17. Cochran and other classmates volunteered to raise money on the street from 9 a.m. to sunset Saturday.

    Nearby at the St. George airport, pilot Jeremy Johnson offered helicopter rides over the devastated areas in return for a $100 donation to the Ludwig family, who lost everything.

    Cody Clark, Johnson?s co-worker said he had received phone calls from Colorado from people wanting to help. In just four hours of helicopter rides, Johnson raised $5,000.

    The Ence family was among the many taking the benefit helicopter rides. Brad Ence said that most people in Southern Utah don?t even have flood insurance.

    ?With a five year drought we don?t think about [flood insurance],? Ence said. ?But we will now.?

    Five teams from the Federal Emergency Management Agency arrived in St. George last Thursday to assess the damage.

    Four of the FEMA teams focus on damage in publicly owned areas. Once all the data is gathered, Gov. Jon Huntsman Jr. will estimate how much aid to request from the president. Until then, Southern Utah residents depend on each other for help.

    ?This flood is a much smaller scale than [the recent Tsunami],? Lindsey said. ?But for these people it is just as devastating.?

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