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Leaders in small Utah town looking for ways to prevent future flooding as cleanup continues

Posted at 9:30 PM, Jun 20, 2022
and last updated 2022-06-20 23:47:09-04

HELPER, Utah — Monday was an exhausting day for the city of Helper in Carbon County as crews and neighbors cleaned up the aftermath of Sunday’s flash floods.

“They’re unpredictable," said Chief Matt Montoya with the Helper Fire Department. "You’re at the mercy of Mother Nature. You don’t know what’s going to happen, how bad it’s going to be."

The strong waters breached many riverbanks, flowing over the road and into nearby homes, campgrounds and golf courses.

“The flash flood warning came across our phones about the time it was happening,” said Montoya.

A few homes just off of historic downtown Helper Main Street filled with water Sunday. Debris, logs and boulders clogged up the bridge on Ivy Street, causing the water to overflow into a nearby neighborhood.

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The Helper Fire Department had to rescue a woman trapped in her basement apartment. The water completely filled up her home, and she is now displaced.

“Everything they’ve worked for is now underwater,” said Montoya. “It’s devastating.”

The water also rushed into an RV campground and the Carbon Country Club Golf Course.

“The area behind me was full of water,” said Tom King, head golf professional at the course. “It was raging through here. The bridge behind us was almost touching the water.”

The course opened back up Monday, aside from the 18th tee box and nearby bathrooms. King said that area was covered by four feet of water.

“It’s pretty sloppy right now, so we need to get it to dry so we need to start pushing it with backhoes,” he said.

He had commissioners and other county leaders check out the damage to figure out how to prevent this from happening again.

“I’ve never seen it get this high,” said King.

Flash flooding isn’t abnormal to the area, but it usually happens later in the summer. Carbon County is also dealing with the 12,000-acre burn scar from last year’s Bear Fire.

“The debris that’s left behind and lack of vegetation, when you get a big thunderstorm like that, it makes a huge flow,” Carbon County Sheriff Jeff Wood said.

Wood said the burn scar will continue to be a problem for all upcoming storms.

The weather also caused rock slides on U.S. Highway 6. The Helper Fire Department responded to the scene where two boulders smashed through the windshield of a vehicle, hitting a couple inside. The two were rushed to Castleview Hospital with non-life-threatening injuries.

The sheriff wants to remind anyone traveling in the area to be alert. He also advises nearby property owners to be prepared if flooding happens again in the next storm.

“Keep an eye out for those storms. The storm wasn’t here. The storm was clear up on top of the mountain, and that’s what caused all of this,” he said.