Restrictions lifted in Woodland Hills, potential for further mudslides low

Posted at 9:25 PM, Aug 14, 2015

WOODLAND HILLS, Utah -- A day after a river of mud forced the evacuation of 14 homes in Woodland Hills, people are cleaning up and asking: Why?

"There was this thunderstorm that set up, and it lasted for about an hour and half and it put down an inch and a half to two inches of rain," said Brian McInerney, a hydrologist with the National Weather Service in Salt Lake City.

He believes rain two days prior saturated the ground, creating conditions ripe for a mudslide.

"Hopefully we just don't see any big thunderstorms over this area because if we do, we could see more material and more water coming out of this drainage," he said.

Big storms are nothing new to the residents of Woodland Hills.

"Whether it's summer or winter, if there are storms that come out of the northwest across Utah Lake, it generally gets stuck up here in the mountains because of the way the mountains here are kind of concave," said Jeff Gibbs.

In year's past, he's had his house have minor flooding problems when one of those storms parks over the area. But the mudslide, he said, was fairly unique.

Part of the surprise comes from the land itself. It's on a steep slope coming off the Wasatch Front. It is thick with mature trees and underbrush. McInerney said the vegetation usually helps to hold soil in place.

Though the risk of another mudslide is not gone, it is low.

"We have lifted all the restrictions, let the residents know that there are still some potential, low potential--two percent chance something like this can happen again," said Steven Lauritzen, Mayor of Woodland Hills.

All the same, he asked people not to sleep in their basements for a few days and to be ready to leave if another storm parks itself over Woodland Hills.