St. George waterfall brings amazement, concern

Posted at 9:44 PM, Sep 15, 2014
and last updated 2014-09-15 23:44:38-04

ST. GEORGE, Utah -- Street crews continue to clean out drains after last week’s flash flood drenched the city. During that storm a waterfall appeared above 400 East, and business owners are worried it will return with future storms.

Several people stopped to watch the 20-foot wide waterfall as it cascaded into the businesses facing St. George Boulevard. The water poured onto nearby parking lots and even got into a business.

“We watched the water flow into our building and around our building,” said Jaron Hunt, owner of the Leavitt Insurance Group. “And bring in another 10 inches of mud.”

Hunt said the damage inside was minor, but at least one car was destroyed when water got inside the engine and they weren’t able to move it in time. It’s not the first time they’ve seen a flood in that area.

Jay Sandberg, St. George city engineer, said 400 East is known as flood street.

“It’s been kind of nicknamed flood street for a long, long time. That’s just where it spills over the cliff and comes into the basin,” Sandberg said.

Sandberg said 400 East is actually a natural drainage area. The city has built a culvert to funnel water from under Red Cliffs Parkway.

In those large storms, the water that proves too much for the culvert spills over the top.

“400 East is an inverted street. Meaning that it’s kind of a v shaped, and it has a large storm drain,” Sandberg said. “So it typically handles the flow very well, a lot of the drainage goes into that.”

Still, Hunt said he’s worried the frequency of storms is showing a flaw.

The waterfall appeared three weeks ago during another massive storm. With the potential for another major storm later in the week, he said this spectacular sight, could be turning into a frequent problem.

“It never happened really,” Hunt said, referring to the waterfall appearing before major construction on the roadways.  “There might be minor amounts of rain that come through a little storm drain pipe that’s up there, but it was minor, you could barely notice it.”

Sandberg said the drainage is capable of handling the routine storms, but the 50- or 100-year storms are impractical to base an entire system on.