NEWS LIVE: This report contains news live as it develops and is being updated continuously. Bookmark and refresh the page periodically for updates; updated 4:08 p.m.
HILDALE – Twelve people are confirmed dead, three have been rescued and one remains unaccounted for after a wall of water swept two vehicles downstream in a flash flood in Hildale Monday afternoon. A total of 16 people were involved in the incident.
7 p.m.: As of about 7 p.m. Tuesday, one flood victim is still missing.
“We are committed to finding him,” a Washington County Emergency Services Facebook post said. “Our thoughts and prayers are with the families who lost loved ones in this incident and in a similar incident in Zion National Park.”
State resources are arriving in the area and assisting with planning for continued search activities.
“The search is being scaled back though the night and will be resumed in earnest in the morning,” the post said, “with local resources being assisted by members of the Salt Lake All Hazards Incident Management Team, Utah National Guard units from the 222 FA and the 213 FSC, Urban Search and Rescue Task Force I and other assets.”
More than 30 volunteer and professional agencies and other volunteers supported Tuesday’s search and rescue efforts.
The WCES post stated:
We thank all those who have assisted in this effort and are grateful for their dedicated and persistent efforts.
4 p.m.: Washington County Emergency Services confirmed the updated death toll of 12 at about 4 p.m. Tuesday.
Hunters in the area have reported to family members that they’re OK, according to a Facebook post from WCES.
The search for victims continues with additional rain expected in the area. The public is asked to stay away from the search area to allow search and rescue personnel to work effectively.
With more rain expected, community members are admonished to stay out of low lying areas and well away from washes and river bottoms. Do not drive across flooded road crossings.
Heavy rains hit the Short Creek area Monday around 5 p.m. As a result, several streets flooded and area waterways swelled with flood waters. One of them was Short Creek in Water Canyon, where a flash flood engulfed two vehicles with what officials described as a “wall of water.”
At some point during the day, the two vehicles believed to be involved in the fatal flooding incident were found. Photos have been provided courtesy of Guy Timpson and can be found in the gallery below this article.
Utah Attorney General Sean Reyes is the most recent state-level official to comment on the events in the Short Creek area – comments added 2:25 p.m.:
I was just in Washington County meeting with members of the Hildale community late last week. I am heartbroken to hear of this devastating loss, particularly in light of other recent tragedies they have faced. Government serves several roles in society, but one of its fundamental obligations is public safety – and I know state and local officials are closely coordinating resources in recovery efforts.
On behalf of the state of Utah, I offer thanks to the first responders, law enforcement personnel, volunteers and others doing all they can to assist recovery efforts. And Saysha and I express our heartfelt condolences to the families of the victims affected by this tragedy.
1 p.m.: Hildale Officials issued a disaster declaration at 11:43 a.m., according to Washington County Emergency Services. Urban Search and Rescue elements, National Guard and incident management assistance have been requested from the Utah State Division of Emergency Management.
At a press conference held at 12:30 p.m. Tuesday, Hildale Mayor Philip Barlow confirmed the deceased include three women. The rest were children from 4 years old to their teens. Four individuals remain missing at this time.
Also addressing the media was Lt. Gov. Spencer Cox, appearing on behalf of Gov. Gary Herbert, who is currently on a trade mission to China. He said state officials have been in constant contact with the local authorities, adding that the Utah National Guard will also be rolled out to aid in search and cleanup efforts.
On behalf of the state of Utah we send our condolences, our hearts are broken for the good people here in Hildale and Colorado City …
(The governor has) authorized the use of our National Guardsmen to come in and help, we’re coordinating that right now with the mayor and with the county We’d also like to commend our county commissioners, Sheriff Pulsipher, for their work in responding to this disaster but first and foremost our hearts and prayers go out to the families of those who have lost loved ones. At this time we just want Hildale to know that we love you, that we’re thinking about you and that we’re here to serve you. I hope that this will bring the state and these communities closer together as we work together to bring an end to this very difficult time.
Obviously this is one of the worst weather-related disasters in the history of the state of Utah and because of that we’re bringing the full resources of the state to bear.
Washington County Sheriff Cory Pulsipher was also present and said that around 25 different local, county, state and federal agencies were currently involved in search operations in the area.
This includes approximately 100 search and rescue law enforcement officers, 500 volunteers and around 50 people attached to the Hildale-Colorado City Fire Department, coming to an estimated 650 individuals involved in search efforts. Members of the National Guard are anticipated to arrive sometime Tuesday afternoon.
12:33 p.m.: Washington County Sheriff Cory Pulsipher has confirmed another body has been found, bringing the death toll to nine. Four others remain missing.
12:15 p.m.: The Red Cross has deployed its Emergency Response Vehicle to the Hildale area.
Victim count remains the same, with eight deceased and recovered, three survivors and five missing as of 6 a.m. Tuesday morning, according to Washington County Emergency Services.
Darin Thomas, principal of the Water Canyon School in Hidale, issued a statement via the Washington County School District website around 11:50 a.m.:
I have received many phone calls, texts, and emails with encouraging thoughts and prayers being offered to Water Canyon and the residents of Hildale. The tragedy that struck here last night was severe and will have lasting effects for some time. I wanted to let you know that there were no students from Water Canyon involved in the incident; although many had relatives who perished. We are and will continue to work though the events of yesterday and do what we can to support our students. Thank you all for your kind words and thoughts during this tragic time.
At around 11:40 a.m., Rep. Chris Stewart issued a statement concerning the flooding:
My thoughts and prayers go out to those affected by the floods in Hildale. I’m grateful for the first responders and volunteers helping with the search and recovery efforts. My office stands ready to help in any way we can.
At 11:35 a.m, Washington County Emergency Services said search teams are continuing to search the banks of Short Creek. No additional victims have been located.
The creek is still running high and the area is unstable, with large volumes of mud and debris.
Search teams are continuing to search the banks of Short Creek.
“We’re continuing to have rainfall and a lot of moisture coming into the area so we’re going to try to do as much as we can in the windows that we’ve got between these storms, but safety is our utmost concern and that’s where the focus is, to make sure we keep all of our volunteers safe,” Washington County Sheriff Cory Pulispher said.
No additional victims have been located at this time.
Officials continue to ask the public to stay away from the area and allow searchers to continue their efforts.
Utah Gov. Gary Herbert and Sen. Orrin Hatch issued statements concerning the fatal flooding in Hildale.
Around 9:30 a.m., the National Weather Service issued a flash flood warning for the Short Creek area until noon Tuesday.
“I am heartbroken to hear of the recent tragedy in Washington County. The State of Utah has offered its full resources to the town of Hildale to aid with the search and rescue effort,” Herbert said, adding the state is offering its full resources to the town to aid in search and rescue operations.
“Elaine and I send our prayers for the victims of the Hilldale Flooding and their families, and to the emergency responders as they continue to search for those missing,” Hatch said.
At 7:26 a.m., Tuesday, officials reporter that fire and public works crews worked through the night monitoring flood crossings and searching the banks of Short Creek.
A large contingent of contractors, using heavy equipment, are working to clear thousands of tons of mud and debris from the Central Street creek crossing.
Rain continued throughout the night and flooding has continued and all crossings remain closed.
One survivor remained hospitalized over night. There are eight confirmed dead, and five still missing. Six of the deceased were located in Utah and two in Arizona, almost 2 1/2 miles down stream.
The search effort will continue and resources will be increased Tuesday morning, weather permitting.
Washington County Emergency Services reported about 12:50 a.m. Tuesday that the location of an additional deceased victim has been found, bringing those killed in this incident to eight.
“The search is currently being scaled back due to safety concerns,” officials said via a Facebook page update. Search efforts are being scaled back for the night due to safety concerns. A full-scale search will resume at 7 a.m. Tuesday.
Earlier, Chief Kevin Barlow with the Hildale-Colorado City Fire Department said:
At about 4 and 5 o’clock we had a thunderstorm come over town and hit the canyons above us extremely hard. We had multiple different rescues of stranded vehicles at the crossing, but the most significant incident we’re aware of is two occupied vehicles were hit by a wall of water on Canyon Street and they were carried downstream in a flood channel and there were 16 people in those vehicles – there were 16 people in those vehicles between those two vehicles – three have been rescued alive, six confirmed fatalities, and seven remain unaccounted for.
The occupants of the vehicles ranged from three adult women to children around the age of 4 years old, Barlow said. Barlow was unable to identify which among them had died, were found or yet missing.
“This water (that) caught them unawares came out of Maxwell Canyon,” Barlow said. “It’s just above the confluence where it joins Short Creek – they’re actually in the Short Creek Channel but they were washed there ….”
Three surviving victims, one was transported to Dixie Regional Medical Center in St. George for treatment, and six people are still missing as of the 11:20 p.m. update.
Emergency responders from Hildale, Colorado City, Hurricane, Washington County Sheriff’s Office and Search and Rescue, Mohave County, and Apple Valley are involved in the search for the missing.
Many streets were heavily flooding and there is a lot of mud, sand, boulders, and debris on those streets. Multiple homes are without power and water due to infrastructure damage. Additional persons were rescued by emergency responders during the event.
Click on photo to enlarge it, then use your left-right arrow keys to cycle through the gallery.
Copyright St. George News, SaintGeorgeUtah.com LLC, 2015, all rights reserved.
Copyright St. George News, SaintGeorgeUtah.com LLC, 2015, all rights reserved.