Fat with runoff, some Sanpete rivers flood
By Robert Stevens
GUNNISON—Rivers across the county are rising from heavy spring runoff, and the Gunnison Valley is seeing the worst of it.
With last year being the driest on record, followed by the wettest winter since 2011, some flooding is almost inevitable.
In Gunnison, both the Sevier and Sanpitch Rivers have escaped their banks, flooding into roads nearby.
The Sevier River has been flooding over into Dover Road in several spots for the last few weeks.
The Sanpitch River along the Gunnnison Riverwalk, and the nearby roads at 200 East and 200 West, have been closed due to heavy flooding.
Some mostly normal flooding is happening across North Sanpete as well, with the Sanpitch Rivers beginning to escape its banks in the Chester area.
“Utah’s snowpack is coming off and we’re already seeing the impact in our streams and reservoirs,” said Troy Brosten, hydrologist with the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS). “Most of the current observed stream flow levels range from 100 to over 250 percent (of normal).”
Brosten says snowpack in Utah is much higher than normal, at 129 percent compared to last year’s 35 percent at this time.
Utah Snow Survey hydrologist Jordan Clayton says, “As predicted, many of Utah’s small- to medium-size reservoirs are at or near capacity. Larger reservoirs have gained substantial amounts of runoff. Some reservoirs have unusually large volumes of water for this time of year.”
According to officials, rapid melting of snow after a heavy winter is the most common cause of major floods in Utah, but the risk of floods is insignificant compared to the need to recharge the state’s water supplies.
The Gunnison Valley Police Department issued a warning on its Facebook page about the dangers of the flooding for children and anyone else who enters the water. The department said it had already caught multiple children playing in or near the streams and urged parents to keep their kids away.
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention report that more than half of all flood-related drownings occur when a vehicle is driven into flood water.
The next highest percentage of flood-related deaths is due to walking into or near flood waters. According to the agency, people underestimate the force and power of water.
Many flood-related deaths occur in cars swept downstream. Many of these deaths are preventable.
Never drive around the barriers blocking a flooded road. The road may have collapsed under that water. A mere 6 inches of fast-moving flood water can knock over an adult.
It takes just 12 inches of rushing water to carry away most cars and just 2 feet of rushing water can carry away SUVs and trucks.