Spring flooding causes Gov. Herbert to ask for Federal Disaster Assistance


Flooding caused by a record amount of water has forced Utah Gov. Gary Herbert to petition President Barack Obama for federal disaster assistance.

The Utah Department of Public Safety’s Division of Emergency Management and the Federal Emergency Management Agency have assessed the damages sustained by the spring flooding and according to a news release, their preliminary damage assessments are around $12.7 million.

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Flooding caused by a record amount of water has forced Utah Gov. Gary Herbert to petition President Barack Obama for federal disaster assistance.
“Federal assistance was essential in helping southern Utah recover from the December floods,” said Keith Squires, director of DEM. “We hope this request to the president elicits the same kind of aid to our affected counties. They worked overtime to minimize flooding damage and our hats go off to them.”




Federal assistance would help cover the burden of the cost of the disaster.

“It is impossible for the state to budget for any disaster,” said Jon Dougherty, spokesman for DEM. “Emergency funds has been eaten up by the flooding in April, May and June.”

The National Guard were called to an incident in Weber County where the Weber River flooded and caused acres of damage to farmland and homes.

“This has been a really busy year,” Dougherty said. “Major flooding is over, but there still is a chance for incidents of spot flooding.”

In the letter to President Obama, Herbert said the National Weather Service Colorado Basin River Forecast Center reported a significant increase in flood threats throughout the state at the end of May. Record snow pack and cool seasonal temperatures are an added danger and could lead to more flooding. These conditions were the result of the wettest spring on record for northern Utah.

On June 1, snow packs were measured by the NRC SNOTEL system and showed record high snow pack in the mountains near Bear, Weber and Provo rivers.

In Herbert’s letter he said cool seasonal temperatures have also affected the snow melt. The Utah State University Utah Climate Center reported the snow melt held off until June when it normally starts melting in mid-April. Many locations in northern Utah still had snow on the ground, a full two months behind schedule .

It is projected that by the time the snow pack in northern Utah is melted, the Great Salt Lake level will rise as much as 5.7 feet, setting a new one-year record. Even Utah Lake has seen the affects of the snow melt and rose approximately two feet, wrote Herbert.

This precipitation has set records. Since the National Weather Service started recording precipitation levels in 1870, March, April and May this year has set records for the highest amount of precipitation in a 3-month period. Another record set by this year’s cool temperature is that those months produced the fourth coldest spring recorded in Salt Lake.

“If we would have had seven consecutive days with above normal temperature, we would have had higher flooding,” said Brian McInerney, Hydrologist for the National Weather Service Forecast office in Salt Lake. “The cool temperature prevented mass flooding.”

These conditions could potentially take lives and destroy millions of dollars in property damage. According to McInerney, the increased water level has contributed to 16 drowning deaths in Utah’s rivers and lakes since April.

“When the waters are flowing high, people die,” McInerney said. “There is a deadly correlation between high and low snow pack years.”

The National Weather Service issued 45 flood warnings since early March. County and state agencies were prepared to handle flooding. There was less damage done because of their preparation.

“It could have been a lot worse, like the 1983 State Street flooding in Salt Lake,” McInerney said.

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