SPRINGDALE — A flash flood Tuesday afternoon forced the closure of Zion National Park, sending flood waters and mud through both the south entrance in Springdale and the east entrance in Kane County.
State Route 9 was closed at Rockville as heavy flooding left more than a foot of mud down Zion Park Boulevard from the park entrance to Blondie’s Diner.
Springdale Police Officer Britt Ballard, who grew up in Springdale, did not mince words when it came to describing how serious this flood was.
“I’ve lived or worked here for 36 years. I grew up here and this is the worst I’ve ever seen,” Ballard said. “This is a major, major incident disaster-wise. I mean, we get a little bit of flooding and a bit of mud on the road. But not like this.”
No injuries have been reported.
Along with clogging up part of the boulevard, mud swept right to the entrances of Springdale’s Town Hall, library and police offices. Police Chief Garen Brecke’s own vehicle was swept from the parking lot. Another vehicle was wrapped against a tree.
“There is heavy flooding in parts of Springdale,” the town’s Mayor Stan Smith said. “We’re still working on immediate needs and evaluation of the situation will follow.”
Ballard echoed that, saying assessing the damage is just beginning, though at least initially much of that damage looked to be muddy water getting into some buildings.
“We’ve been going around to businesses trying to get at least ballpark figure estimates on damage, just so we can try and collect all of that to figure out where we stand,” Ballard said.
As for Zion National Park, the park released a statement saying it will remain closed into the evening, with park shuttles continuing to evacuate visitors to the Zion Canyon Visitor Center, operating past their usual shutdown time.
On the eastern, Kane County entrance to the park, muddy debris seemingly blocked the entry, with cars buried halfway up their tires in mud.
Ballard said more than an inch and a half of rain fell in a span of about an hour in the area.
“It was months and months’ worth of rain all at once,” he said.
Arlene Begay, a worker at the west checkpoint into Zion National Park, took video and pictures of muddy floodwaters rushing past the entry.
The muddy river stampeded down Zion Park Boulevard before diverting into the Virgin River through a parking lot across from Blondie’s Diner near Elm Street. Floodwater tributaries formed west of the boulevard that went into other areas of town, including the Canyon Community Center.
¨I noticed there was a dumpster in the middle of the road that got floated down,” Ballard said. “That was a first for me.¨
At its most recent Town Council meeting on June 9, the council approved a new master plan for stormwater drainage. At the time, with the severity of the drought in full evidence, the move drew a few snickers from some present at the meeting.
There is plenty of awareness about storm drainage now, with mud now surrounding the very Canyon Community Center where the council meeting was held earlier this month.
Ballard said 10 vehicles in all were swept from the lot.
The scene of the flooding also saw some cooperative efforts, including assistance from the Hurricane Police Department, Hurricane Valley Fire District and the Washington County Sheriff’s Office.
Another moment of help came after a tourist’s travel trailer ended up partially buried in a nearly 2-foot-deep lake formed as the flood waters went through the parking lot across from Blondie’s.
A Springdale resident brought his backhoe and created a makeshift canal to empty the water into the nearby Virgin River.
Updated 9 p.m., Additional information and photos added.
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