Preparation makes serious flood damage unlikely


    By Leaa Forschler

    With thunder clapping in the distance, Utah County workers predict no increased flooding in the county from snow melts and spring runoff.

    In the mountains of unincorporated Utah County, workers have been busy clearing debris basins and streambeds to prevent debris from damming the streams in preparation for spring runoff.

    ?We have been working to clean out streambeds where we can,? said County Engineer Clyde Naylor, who has worked for the County for 27 years. ?I believe Utah County residents should be in pretty good shape unless we get a rain storm, and how do you plan for that, I don?t know.?

    Naylor worked for the County in 1983 when streams overflowed their banks and flooding threatened homes around the lake and took out bridges.

    Naylor said in 1983 the snow had not melted off the mid and low mountain areas when storms and heavy rainfall melted the snow suddenly.

    ?All of the low snow is off [the mountain] and most of the mid snow is off,? Naylor said. ?Most flooding occurs because of rain events, not snow events.?

    The only major flooding Naylor predicted for Utah County was if there was a lot of rain on top of the snowmelt.

    ?We have not had any major budget planning for flooding since ?85,? Naylor said. ?But we have done a lot of work since then.?

    Debris basins have been built at the base of several creeks and streams coming off the mountains in Provo Canyon and Hobble Creek Canyon. Debris basins are designed to catch downward moving debris and logs that threaten to dam the streams. The debris basins are checked yearly by the state, Naylor said.

    Naylor said he remembered the flood in 1983 and the conditions that contributed to causing damage.

    ?In ?83 a major landside preceded a lot of the flooding and blocked off Spanish Fork Canyon,? Naylor said.

    The landside blocked off a waterway, created a lake and closed a section of the highway and railroad. Naylor said 20 homes were destroyed in that area as a direct result of the landslide.

    ?In order to drain that lake out, they needed to tunnel through the rock and the hillside,? he said.

    This year Utah County has had only one landslide in Cedar Hills. This landslide has only threatened one home, and it is not threatening to block water flow. The landslide in Spanish Fork was much larger, Naylor said.

    Workers in the city of Orem do not expect much of a flooding problem either.

    ?Because we are situated on the bench, we are not threatened by flooding from snow melt,? said Stan Orme, with the City of Orem Streets Section. ?Our flooding mostly comes from rain. We don?t expect a lot of flooding from snow.?

    Flooding is common when the soil is already saturated; therefore, big storms are the largest threat to flooding in Utah County.

    ?It?s not rocket science,? said geologist Bill Perkins. ?The soil can only infiltrate so much water, and once it reaches that saturation point, the water is going to follow the way of gravity and go downhill.?

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