ST. GEORGE — Hikers visiting Zion National Park Saturday morning formed a human chain to help each other cross a dangerous swollen river when a flash flood hit a canyon where they were hiking.
Video of the rescue was posted on Instagram Wednesday by Jhonatan Gonzalez of Maui, Hawaii.
Gonzalez was hiking the Narrows with a group of family members on a hot and sunny day. The group was a couple miles into the hike when the initially calm river rapidly started to rise, becoming waist-deep in an instant, according to the post.
“People were panicking but it was a fun adventure and others started helping,” Gonzalez wrote. “Good vibes, great experience for all of us.”
Gonzalez described the ordeal as “heartwarming” to watch as strangers joined the chain to help those who were struggling to get through the rushing waters choked with logs and debris.
“Everyone made it back safe,” Gonzalez posted. “Just super muddy and with a good exciting fun experience.”
Zion park officials closed the Narrows and other trails Saturday afternoon when a flash flood warning was issued by the National Weather Service.
The Narrows closes to visitors anytime such warnings are issued or when the water flow rises above 150 cubic feet per second, and the popular hike remains closed for two hours after the warning is lifted, according to the National Park Service.
Heavy rainfall can lead to rapid onset of flooding, with some of the most prone areas being slot canyons, burn scars, normally dry washes and low water crossings, even when the actual storm is many miles away, according to the National Weather Service.
The Narrows are susceptible to flash flooding because much of the surrounding area is bare rock that does not absorb water. Storm runoff is funneled rapidly into the Narrows.
“During a flash flood, the water level rises almost instantly – within seconds or minutes,” according to the park service. “Flash floods are common in Zion and hikers have been stranded, injured, and even killed by venturing into narrow, flood prone canyons.”
In September 2015, the bodies of seven hikers were recovered in Zion National Park after the group suddenly became caught in flash flooding in Keyhole Canyon.
“Despite the forecast, flooding is possible at any time, and floods have occurred on days they were not expected,” park officials said.
As this report is published, a Flash Flood Watch is in effect Friday from 2 p.m. to midnight and covers Utah’s Dixie and Zion National Park, southern mountains, Glen Canyon Recreation Area/Lake Powell, south central Utah and the San Rafael Swell.
Affected cities include St George, Kanab, Escalante, Bullfrog, Loa, Panguitch, Green River, Hanksville and Bryce Canyon.
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