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Salt Lake Valley flood victims bracing for 2nd night of uncertainty

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SALT LAKE COUNTY -- Since Saturday night, the biggest concern for Salt Lake Valley east-side residents has been Little Cottonwood Creek, as it roars through the Salt Lake Valley from Alta to the Jordan River.

The creek is raging for the third straight night, and hundreds of volunteers are on the battle lines.


The valley was not ready when the first onslaught occurred Saturday night, but lots of sandbags have been filled and thrown since then to get ready.

Sunday night, the creek hit what might be an all-time high -- about 900 cubic feet per second. The question is: Will Monday night be worse or better?

The power of Sunday night's high water was obvious in Little Cottonwood Canyon. The creek demolished a bridge used by hikers and bicyclists. It buffeted the side of a nearby hydroelectric plant and partially undermined an adjacent parking area.

Chopper Five got pictures later in the day of crews working to clear the broken bridge out of the river channel; part of the flood control effort is to get debris out of the river.

Bikers who used that bridge as recently as late Sunday have been astonished at the power of what is usually a little creek.

"It's pretty amazing right now," said Carlo Travelli. "It's pretty impressive what Mother Nature can do. It's pretty wild."

Forest service closes some recreation areas
List of closures:
  • Ledgemere Picnic area, Big Cottonwood Canyon - Closed
  • Temple Quarry Trailhead, Little Cottonwood Canyon - Closed
  • Upper Narrows, Lower Narrows and Loop Campgrounds, South Willow Canyon, Stansbury Mountains - Closed
  • Little Mill Picnic Area and Campground, American Fork Canyon - Partially Closed
  • Mile Rock Picnic Area, American Fork - Closed
  • Ledgefork Campground, Weber River Area near Kamas - partially closed
  • Lower Provo River Campground, Mirror Lake Highway - Closed

Where Little Cottonwood Creek roars through the Fort Union area, it peeled the patio off of the vacant Black Angus restaurant.

Ironically, that building was used Sunday night as a rendezvous point for volunteers. Now it has been declared unsafe.

Big Cottonwood Creek is roaring too, and it undermined part of the pavement on the main highway in Big Cottonwood Canyon. Utah Department of Transportation crews protected the highway by using boulders to redirect the current.

"We got the whole shoulder of the road taken out for about 50 feet, and then it got under the main service of the main line about a foot, so there is a little bit of damage there," said UDOT area supervisor Rick Debban. "If it doesn't go any further we're OK; but if it cuts back any further, then we got problems."

For now, sandbaggers are preparing for worst; but the National Weather Service and the Murray Fire Department are predicting slightly lower flows than Sunday night. Afternoon temperatures were a few degrees lower, so that's expected to slow the runoff a little bit.

There are many uncertainties, though, especially the possibility of a big thunderstorm, which is still a threat.

To underline the uncertainty, the relatively optimistic forecast from the National Weather Service was not echoed Monday night by a spokesman for the Unified Fire Authority. He said to expect significantly higher water.

However, all agree the peak should come about midnight or a little later.

Meanwhile, the United Fire Authority says it appreciates the response of volunteers who showed up Monday night to help fill sandbags. Those who would still like to assist are asked to go to Cottonwood Heights Elementary School beginning at noon on Tuesday.

Updated information will be posted on the Salt Lake County Emergency Management website:


Story compiled with contributions from John Hollenhorst and Marc Giauque.



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