HILDALE – Eight people are confirmed dead and five are missing following a flash flood in the Short Creek area Monday.
Around 5 p.m., Monday, heavy rains hit the twin communities of Hildale, Utah, and Colorado City, Arizona. The rains caused flooding in many streets and overtook washes that town roads passed through, shutting down direct access to parts of the community.
During the flooding, a group of people in their vehicles had stopped to watch the flooding along Short Creek in Water Canyon, Hildale Mayor Philip Barlow said. They were well outside of the flooding area, he said, but it wasn’t enough.
“Witnesses said they saw a huge flash flood coming down,” the mayor said, adding the people watching the flood had no idea what was coming. “It was basically a wall of water that came down and … just engulfed the vehicles.”
Two vehicles, containing 16 people between them, were swept into the flood waters, Mayor Barlow said.
A witness told officials that when he saw the flood coming, he got into his car and backed away from the flood path as fast as he could. He said the flood waters came up 200-300 feet from where people had been watching the original flooding, the mayor said.
After getting out of the way, Mayor Barlow said, when the witness looked up, the other vehicles were gone.
One of the vehicles was a van, Hildale Assistant Fire Chief Kevin Barlow said. He said at least three mothers were involved in the group, and the youngest child involved was 4 years old.
As of 1 a.m., Monday, eight of the victims are confirmed dead by Washington County Emergency Services, five remain unaccounted for and three survived the incident. One of the survivors was taken the Dixie Regional Medical Center in St. George for care.
While the Short Creek area is no stranger to flooding, Mayor Barlow said it’s the first time he and others have ever seen anything of this magnitude.
“I don’t recall these kind of fatalities with the flooding,” the mayor, a life-long resident of the area, said.
“It’s a more significant flood than we’ve had for quite some time,” Kevin Barlow said. “ … It’s a community-wide event for sure.”
It’s also a very tragic event, Mayor Barlow said, adding that several families were involved in the flash flooding incident.
“It’s pretty devastating to the community,” the mayor said.
While the search and rescue operations to locate those caught in the flash flood was underway, emergency responders elsewhere in the community were aiding others who had their vehicles caught in water, or rescuing hapless children who found themselves stuck on an island created by the flooding, the mayor said.
A total of seven agencies came together Monday evening to begin search and rescue operations, including agencies and personnel from: Hildale, Colorado City, Hurricane, Washington County Sheriff’s Office and Search and Rescue, Mohave County and Apple Valley.
Search efforts were scaled back late Monday night due to safety concerns, but are expected to resume at 7 a.m. Monday.
The flooding has also disrupted water services to the area and left many homes without power, Kevin Barlow said.
Check back for updates at: News LIVE: Fatal flash flood in Hildale.
St. George News Assistant Editor Kimberly Scott contributed to this story.
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