ST. GEORGE — Some businesses are still recovering after the flash flood that struck St. George on Aug. 23. The storm felled power lines, flooded roads and left gaping sinkholes in its wake, compelling St. George Mayor Jon Pike to declare a local state of emergency. At the time, Gov. Gary Herbert estimated damages to be around a half-million dollars.
After two months, some businesses are still struggling to get back on track. Rick Loghry, who owns RVzz, rents the two-acre lot at 1032 E. 100 South where he sells and services motor homes, fifth wheels, campers and a variety of trailers. When he saw his lot in the aftermath of the storm, it was submerged in three to five feet of water.
“Depending upon where you were standing, the water could be up to your knees, or your neck,” he said during a Wednesday afternoon cruise around the lot. “The showroom was under six inches of water. I had to re-carpet all the offices. It was a mess.”
But those damages were modest compared to what happened on the lot.
“We had 28 units that were totaled,” he said. “That’s about $800,000.”
While he didn’t have flood insurance, which would have helped with the $40,000 in clean-up and repair expenses that came out of his pocket, the merchandise was insured. But the mess wasn’t any easier to clean.
“I’ve had 40 truckloads of mud removed from the lot so far,” he said. “We’re still removing mud. There’s still lines on some walls and some fences, where you can tell how high the water went.”
While the lot isn’t technically in a flood zone, Loghry finds it ironic that there’s a street nearby named Flood.
“Kinda makes you wonder, doesn’t it?” He asked, wryly. “There were hundreds of golf balls in the parking lot. They traveled all the way from the golf course. I got a kick out of that, but it was heartbreaking too.”
The month before the storm hit, Loghry had over 100 units on the lot.
“Luckily they weren’t there by then,” he said. After a stall in sales in March, due to COVID-19, sales rebounded in May.
“Sales doubled overnight,” Loghry said. “It was steady till August, when the storm hit. We were closed for a while. I paid all my employees’ salaries. We’re only now getting back to where we were.”
Still hit outside the flood zone
Sam Fischer, who owns and runs Core Concepts, a custom cabinet-making and installation outfit at 815 Red Rock Road, said his business wasn’t hit as hard as many. But flood damage still caused significant setbacks for the small business owner.
“We only got about an inch of water in the shop,” Fischer said. “But it was enough to ruin three jobs. Wood is much more vulnerable to water than metal. It put us three weeks behind schedule, and cost us about $12,000.”
That figure doesn’t include the extra 100 hours he and his brother put in to get the business back on track.
Fischer said that although his business has sustained damage from three floods in the past eight years, he can’t get flood insurance because the building is not listed as being in a flood zone.
“My agent said that I’d have to get state issued flood protection,” he said. “It’s crazy.”
Fischer said that the main reason his building floods is that the wash that runs behind it clogs with trash and other debris. This causes water to overflow from the wash and rise behind the building, which leads to flooding.
“The city scrapes it out occasionally,” he said. “But it’s a band-aid fix. The building owner went to council meetings, and the city said they’d fix it. But it’s a snail’s pace, you know?”
Fischer says he intends to move, but that would incur other expenses as well as lost time that could be used for jobs, that he said he can’t afford.
“It could take a year to move, and up to $20,000,” he said. “Ideally, I’d like to buy a building. But I don’t have the money for that.”
‘A 1,000-year storm’
St. George Public Works Director Cameron Cutler said he is acutely aware of the struggle to mitigate flood damage. The topic came up multiple times at the Nov. 5 City Council meeting, as the council was asked to consider a number of rezoning petitions. The storm from Aug. 23, which he called a 1000-year storm, is still on his mind.
“That storm was just so intense,” Cutler said. “It was designated as a 1,000-year storm event by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association (NOAA). That’s challenge in itself but, because we’re in the desert, we don’t have a lot of water to vegetate the ground. This leads to a lot of sediment pick-up which, among other things, clogs inlets.”
While Loghry and Fischer both said they didn’t feel entitled to extra help from the city, they also said that they hoped the city would find better ways to control flooding during storms. To that end, Cutler and his team are eyeing ways to control the damage caused by high-intensity storms.
“During a recent storm, we monitored one of our newer detention basins,” Cutler said. “These collect water, to help slow runoff. The water didn’t even reach the spill line, which is pretty impressive. Of course, these things cost money. But we’ve been approved for some funding from the Natural Resources Conservation Service. We’re going to put some of that towards building more of these detention basins, which will help a lot.”
Though he knows that another flood is a very real possibility, Loghry said that he’s confident the city will find a way to mitigate the effects of flooding. He also feels optimistic about the future of his business.
“We’re about to go into our slow season,” he said. “Then we’ll have a full inventory when it gets busy again. When business picks up, we’ll be ready.”
Loghry’s former neighbor, who ran an auto repair shop next door, had another idea altogether.
“He just left,” Loghry said. “I don’t know if he couldn’t take the damages, the expenses, or maybe the stress. But he just got out.”
Loghry paused here, looking out over the lot.
“This has only happened to this lot once in 20 years,” Loghry said, sighing deeply. “You just never know when the next big storm’s coming.”
Copyright St. George News, SaintGeorgeUtah.com LLC, 2020, all rights reserved.