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Despite rescues, flood damage, things could have been much worse for Moab

Posted at 4:28 PM, Jun 24, 2024

MOAB, Utah — Hikers were left stranded by rising flood waters and local businesses saw damages from the downpours after fast and furious storms caused havoc this weekend in Moab.

But Mayor Joette Langaniese says it could have been much worse.

Respecting the power of water, especially in what can be a very unforgiving desert climate, is something Langaniese reinforced Monday, two years after similar storms caused serious damage. In 2022, mud piled onto Main Street, and dozens of local homes and businesses sustained damage from the raging waters.

"If it would have lasted another half hour, this would have been a different story," the mayor shared.

The mayor believes the city’s flood mitigation efforts back then prevented this weekend’s rainstorms from leaving similar destruction behind.

"We did a lot of work. People did get some flooding. Some business downtown got flooded. Some businesses had to be evacuated that were close to the creek. But everything held," said Langaniese. "There was not nearly the amount of destruction in the city as there was the last time. A lot of mud, a lot of dirt, a lot of the same areas got impacted but it wasn’t as bad because all the work we did, but also a lot of the debris that came down two years ago didn’t come down this time because it already got washed out."

Since the events in 2022, water mains were replaced and erosion efforts were made along the nearby creek, which all held up this weekend.

"The reality is this area of town along the creek is a flood plane, it always has been. But we’ve never seen these kinds of events, I haven’t in the 27 years I’ve lived here, so close together," the mayor said. "I mean, I’ve never seen the creek that high ever."

Spanish Valley Vineyards shared video on their social media of crews setting up for an event Saturday when the weather took a bad turn. The winery sustained damage, but they were still able to continue with their event that night.

"When I opened the door to the back patio, I realized the back patio had been destroyed! Sun shades torn down, furniture had been strewn about, flipped," explained the winery owner.

Fortunately, everyone was okay, even a group of hikers who had to call 911 for help Friday. Twenty people were rescued up Grandstaff Canyon by Grand County Sheriff’s Search and Rescue in a 6-hour operation that ended well after midnight. Thermal-imaging cameras on drones helped first responders find the hikers and bring them to safety.

Langaniese added that her husband helped rescue a family whose camp was washed away in the Kane Creek area. She's warning everyone to have more respect for the power of water, especially in extreme desert climates.