CEDAR CITY — In anticipation of more rain and possibly more of the flooding that has devastated portions of Iron County, Cedar City and county officials have been working to clear drainages, channels, canals and ditches.
The National Weather Service issued a flash flood watch for Southern Utah, starting Tuesday afternoon and remaining in effect until Wednesday evening.
Although weather service officials said on Monday they do not know how widespread the anticipated flooding will be, they did say at least a half inch of rain is expected to fall throughout many areas of Southwest Utah, including Washington, Iron, Kane, Garfield and Beaver counties.
Iron County Commissioner Paul Cozzens was operating a excavator Thursday morning in the area of 5600 North and 2300 West, where a breach in the ditch’s walls had caused flooding in the area a little more than one week earlier.
Cozzens was still at it late Monday night, digging and clearing the channel farther south along 2300 West, near the Flying L subdivision, which was hit hard by the floods caused by the most recent storm. Also working in a separate excavator farther to the north was county auditor Dan Jessen, who lives in the area. Both were deepening the channel by digging dirt from the bottom and piling it up along the sides to shore them up by some 3 feet or more.
The most recent powerful storm dumped as much as 6 inches of rain onto the Cedar Breaks area on Aug. 17-18, sending massive amounts of water down the Coal Creek channel and other drainages in the valley. The raging floodwaters uprooted trees and pushed large boulders downstream, along with large amounts of mud and other debris.
“Anytime you have 6-inch storm up the canyon and your cubic feet per second goes from 7 to 1,100 in 15 minutes, that’s a big storm,” Cozzens told Cedar City News. “And actually, after Urie Creek came on board, I think it went up to 2,000 cubic feet per second. That’s just so much water that it’s hard to have any infrastructure in place that can handle a storm like that. You just maintain them regularly, and you hope for the best when you get those big monster storms.”
Cozzens said that bottom line is that it was “an act of God.”
“Six inches of rain (in one area) is crazy. … There’s not a lot of things you can do to prepare for that,” he said. “I mean, you can you can do your best. Even with the damage that was done, I think we did pretty well considering getting over 6 inches of rain plus another storm in Urie Creek that same night.”
Cozzens noted that the channel in question had been inspected as recently as July 7, when Iron County Engineer Richard Wilson reported finding a logjam that had caused a backup of silt near 6000 North. A worker using heavy equipment cleared the logs and silt from the channel the following week, Wilson reported.
Cozzens said the various drainage ditches throughout the county are inspected and cleared out on a regular basis.
“We have a set schedule on the different channels and ditches through the county and have a rotating maintenance schedule, which we’ve done for years,” he said, although he added it may be time to meet again an examine the situation.
“We’ve got a new county engineer. We’ve got a new city engineer in Cedar City,” he said. “I think it’s time that we meet with Cedar City and sit down and look at our past agreements and just make sure we’re all on the same page and just move forward and continue to maintain and keep the ditches clean.”
From the city side, crews were seen Thursday using a skidsteer and an excavator to clear out more rocks and debris from the diversion canal known as the Woodbury split near Cedar City’s Bicentennial Park, the same tunnel that had just been cleared after the previous week’s storm.
Cedar City Mayor Maile Wilson-Edwards wrote in a Facebook post dated Aug. 25 that the city was aware that additional rocks and dirt had accumulated inside the tunnel and said crews were working on clearing it yet again.
“We will continue to work on ongoing mitigation, cleanup, and prevention efforts now and into the future,” the mayor said.
Cozzens said any residents needing sandbags in preparation for possible flooding on Tuesday are welcome to come by the county road department building on Kitty Hawk Drive just west of Bulldog Road and freely take what they need from the many pallets loaded with filled sandbags.
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