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Springdale hopes for disaster relief, as flash flood damage estimated in millions

Posted at 7:06 AM, Jul 02, 2021
and last updated 2021-07-02 09:06:46-04

SPRINGDALE, Utah — Driving SR-9 through town, Springdale looks much better than it did earlier this week. The signs of Tuesday's flash flood can be seen in the mud piled away in empty parking lots, and the red dust that lightly coats the road.

WATCH: Cleanup efforts could take weeks after flash floods rip through Southern Utah

But tourists are roaming the sidewalks. Most businesses are open, and bustling.

Locals are checking in on each other, after the historic flood raged through the northern part of town, and southern part of Zion National Park.

Stewart Ferber stepped up on a concrete retaining wall and peered over his property's fence to see what his neighbor was up to. He could hear the noise of cleanup on the other side.

"How's it coming?" he asked. "It's a lot of stuff," the neighbor replied, adding, "Nothing compared to what you got."

From SR-9, Ferber's business Zion Canyon Campground and RV Park which sits on the same property as Zion Campfire Lodge, looks like it mostly survived the flood.

PHOTOS: Flooding closes parts of Zion National Park

But inside, mud and debris fill every room and hallway. Bookcases and appliances like industrial refrigerators and washing machines sit tipped over on the ground, clearly having been tossed about.

Mud and water filled desk drawers in an office. The flash flood waterline sits hip-high on the walls and doors.

"Campground we've had for 45 years, so it means the most to me," Ferber said. He took over the property from his father years ago and built the hotel.

Recent renovations, he explained, allowed him to become designated as a boutique Choice Hotel just a month ago.

Cleaning up after flash floods, mudslides

Decades spent building up the business were torn town in an instant by the floods.

"We were just making up for last year, and the pandemic," Ferber said.

Things were finally getting back to normal, and Ferber was expecting a busy 4th of July rush.

Instead his campground is temporarily closed to new visitors. His hotel building is so heavily damaged, he said he might have to tear the whole thing down.

"It is a disaster. It's hard to fathom, and it’s certainly not repairable," he said. "So we just kind of look at it as, a rescue of what's in there that’s still worth something, get it out of there."

Ferber estimates the damage adds up to at least $4 million. His flood insurance, which Ferber said is in place because of the creek that flows by the campground, only pays out $500,000.

Down the street, Zion Canyon Village was also heavily damaged-- the worst of it at Cable Mountain Lodge. The flash floods ruined the entire first floor.

Up the canyon from Ferber's hotel and campground, Springdale City Hall and Park sit in a disarray of sludge and gigantic boulders. Springdale Mayor Stan Smith said they had to remove a bridge that crossed a culvert. One boulder they moved was the size of a small car, he pointed out.

The floods swept up nearly a dozen employee and city cars and trucks, moving them anywhere from a few feet to across the parking lot.

He indicated it's going to take months-- even a year or more-- for everyone to dig out of the mess.

"We're hoping that there's some money, either state or federal, that could be coming in to help out the town, and also help out the businesses and residents that were damaged," he said.

Mayor Smith made a disaster declaration and had a meeting with state leaders on Thursday to figure out their options.

As the long-term cleanup starts to take shape, Smith is grateful for one thing.

"It's people," he said. "Property can be replaced. People can't."

People like Stewart Ferber and all his employees, who ran to the second story of the hotel when they realized the building sat in the flash flood's path.

After hearing how bad off he is, another business owner in town stopped to check in on him Thursday afternoon.

"I'm sorry," she said, becoming choked up.

"Well thank you, no I appreciate it," Ferber assured her. "I appreciate the sentiment. We're good."

He talked about how he's glad all his employees are okay. How he's focusing on saving what he can from the building and moving on.

"I'm winning a battle," he said, adding, "I'll beat ‘em-- Mother Nature and all."