HILDALE – Gov. Gary Herbert visited Hildale Saturday afternoon to meet with the families who lost loved ones in Monday’s fatal flash flooding. The governor also briefly visited the site where two vehicles carrying 16 town residents were swept away by the floodwaters.
“I’ve seen the flooding, and it’s hard to comprehend,” Herbert said, referring to a video he was shown while at Hildale City Hall that caught the fatal flooding.
While at the flood site, the governor said, “It makes your heart sink. … It’s hard to watch. It does show the power of Mother Nature.”
Storms over Washington County Monday resulted in flash flooding in the Short Creek area of Hildale and Colorado City, Arizona; Zion National Park and the surrounding region. In Hildale, 12 people were killed: three women and nine children ages 4 to 11. In Zion, seven canyoneers were also swept away to their death. The body of a Hurricane resident thought missing was found late Thursday in the Warner Valley area of the Arizona Strip is also believed to have been a victim of the flooding.
In all, the flooding has left 20 people dead and one still missing. The bodies of the 20 have been accounted for and recovered. However, 6-year-old Tyson Lucas Black of Hildale remains missing.
“You never know what tomorrow will bring,” Herbert said, “so we have to live our lives today so we’re ready to meet our Maker tomorrow.”
Despite Monday’s tragedies, three Hildale boys managed to survive the flood. They were with their fathers, Joseph Jessop and Sheldon Black Jr., when the governor met with them.
Jessop lost wives Josephine and Naomi and seven of his children to the flood, though one of his sons survived. Sheldon Black Jr. lost his wife Della Black and two children to the flood, though two sons survived and one, 6-year-old Tyson, remains missing as of Saturday evening.
“They’re wonderful families,” Herbert said after meeting with the Jessops and Blacks. “They love their children. They love their wives.”
Such love of family is something Utahns throughout the state can relate to, the governor said.
Herbert said the families and community are grateful for the outpouring of love and support they have received.
“Everywhere I’ve been, people have asked me to express their condolences,” he said. “Our thoughts and prayers are with the families in Hildale from all over Utah. Our 3 million people mourn with the people of Hildale and the families that have lost loved ones in this tragedy.”
In addition to the well-wishing of people from across the state and beyond, support has taken a very real form in the hundreds of people who have come to the twin communities of Hildale and Colorado City, Arizona, since Monday, Herbert said.
Agencies from the local to federal level began pouring into Hildale in the wake of the flooding. Among them was the Unified Fire Authority out of Salt Lake City, which established a coordinating incident command post in the town.
“It’s been a great cooperative effort between local community and local responders and the many hundreds of volunteer searchers who have come out to this event as well as the resources we brought with us,” Brian Anderton, a United Fire battalion chief, said.
Among the resources the state brought in to aid in search and cleanup efforts were the Utah National Guard and Utah Task Force 1.
However, six days after the flooding, command of search and recovery efforts is being transitioned back over to local teams, Anderton said. The United Fire Authority and others are beginning to return home. Unfortunately, he said, they aren’t leaving with the final result they hoped for, but they remain optimistic.
“We’re still optimistic that we’ll see the outcome that we’re hoping for,” Anderton said, “that we’ll be able to bring 6-year-old Tyson back to his family and so they can start to recover and this community can go back to some sense of normal.”
Though some groups will be withdrawing from the area, Herbert said the state would still aid Hildale as requested.
After surveying the area where the two vehicles were swept away, Herbert said there were lessons that can be learned from the tragic event and that the state will also work with Hildale’s mayor and public works people on possible flood mitigation efforts.
“I appreciate the resilience of the people of Hildale,” Herbert said. “Their faith in God; they’re united as families and helping their neighbors – I think that’s a lesson we could all learn.”
- Boil advisory lifted for Hildale residents; flood cleanup volunteers sought
- Raw video shows flood victims swept away by raging waters; victim’s husband speaks
- Troubled waters in Short Creek after Hildale flood, families left without closure
- Searchers find 2 missing Washington County men; flooding claims 1 more victim
- Last of 7 canyoneers’ bodies found since flash flooding of Zion slot canyon
- Search continues for 6-year-old boy in aftermath of Hildale flood
- 18 found dead in 2 days in Washington County flash floods, 2 missing; new video
- Drone footage captures Hildale flood devastation
- Gov. Herbert, others, ‘heartbroken’ over Hildale flood fatalities; photos
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