ST. GEORGE — Gov. Gary Herbert arrived in St. George Monday to meet with city officials and take a tour of the damages caused by a severe thunderstorm that brought lightning, high winds, rain and flooding to parts of Washington County Sunday evening.
The city has declared a state of emergency that will allow it to receive aid from the state and, if necessary, the federal government, as damages are continuing to be assessed.
A brief press conference was held in front of the Ramada Inn on St. George Boulevard where a large sinkhole opened up in the parking lot of the hotel. There, Herbert, along with St. George Mayor Jon Pike and Commissioner of Public Safety Jess Anderson, addressed the media in the aftermath of the flooding.
“Sometimes it’s hard to forecast, we understood that those rains were coming, but nobody recognized it would be such a powerful, in a short period of time, rainfall,” Herbert said of the flash flooding that caused damage throughout the city to both public and private buildings and homes.
Herbert said damages have been estimated at nearly half a million dollars and rising as they continued to get reports of other areas that had seen flooding, including the Washington County Library St. George Branch.
Herbert praised Pike and city crews for their swift response to the flooding and associated damages, including power outages, as well as their advance preparation as a city that has helped mitigate potential damages.
“I want to commend Mayor Pike and his team for their swift response,” he said during the press conference, adding that there were power outages in the area for only about two hours and debris has already been cleared, getting the city back into shape.
Pike echoed the governor’s statement saying that while the rest of the city went back to sleep, the city’s public works, street, power and emergency personnel were out all night making headway on the damages.
Pike was also quick to praise the citizens of St. George saying that there were many instances of neighbors helping neighbors.
“That always gives me hope,” Pike said.
At the press conference, Herbert said there were many private buildings and residences – between 15-20 homes that they knew of – that had received damages from the flooding.
The city’s emergency declaration doesn’t extend to private damages, like the Ramada sinkhole, but Pike said the city will be there to support in any way they can.
While Pike said he was encouraged that the damage wasn’t worse, he added that there is still a lot of assessing and work to do.
“This is always a learning experience for us as we move forward,” Herbert said.
While the storm was widespread throughout Washington County, City of St. George Communications and Marketing Director David Cordero said the majority of the damage was sustained in St. George.
At the time of this report, though the county is still assessing, no other city nor the county has declared a state of emergency.
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