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Flood waters recede, but threat is far from over


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SALT LAKE COUNTY -- Salt Lake County has seen plenty of flooding over the past couple of days, but the water levels are finally going down. Of course, that just means you can better see the damage it left behind.

Flood victims getting first look at damage

It's amazing what a lot of water can do in a short amount of time. Now, what used to be one of the best looking backyards in this Salt Lake County neighborhood, near the Willow Creek Country Club, has become one of the most dangerous.

Kim World's yard is now full of boulders and debris following Monday's flood
Kim World's yard is now full of boulders and debris following Monday's flood

"It was incredible," says Kim World, who lives in the flooded neighborhood.

She and her family were vacationing in Capitol Reef National Park this past weekend when they got the call from neighbors.

"We assumed when we got home the end of our house was going to be in the creek," World recalls.

The water was smashing into their home, but they really couldn't see the damage until Tuesday when water levels went down. All that's left of World's yard is a big mess, but her house seems to be OK.

"Actually, to see the house standing, we were pretty happy about that," she says.

Water levels down in Salt Lake Valley creeks

The decrease in water levels also has Salt Lake County emergency responders feeling a bit relieved.

"Today we're really breathing a considerable sigh of relief. We've inspected the areas that were most concerned, and the water flow has decreased dramatically," said Salt Lake County Sheriff Jim Winder.

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Still, one thing that has quite a few people worried is that county officials say in the next couple of days, maybe even Wednesday, the water level could actually go back up.

"We've been told by the National Weather Service that tomorrow we can expect our peaks to go back up again. I don't know to what level, but probably back to what we saw Sunday and Monday night," says Scott Baird, with Salt Lake County Engineering and Flood Control.

At a command center near Wasatch Boulevard, all of the creeks are being monitored, and crews are being dispatched to areas that could experience flooding.

Teams are strategically located along the creeks, ready to step in if needed. They are specifically watching for debris getting stuck under bridges and clogging the water flow.

Law enforcement officers are warning people to stay away, even if they are curious about the water, because the chances of a successful rescue if you do fall in are very slim.

"Our primary concern is life safety," Winder said. "We're keeping people away from the creeks. A lot of these areas are interesting to look at, and so we are getting people who want to come look. We're keeping them away. We are also contacting homeowners at the river's edge to make sure no additional properties are threatened."

In Murray, the situation is much better as well. Murray Park is still under water, and crews are using pumps to get it back in the creek, but the water level is well below the bridge.

Of course, Monday, water flowed over State Street. City officials say the park is doing its job as an emergency overflow pond.

Thousands answer call for volunteers

Meanwhile, dozens of volunteers spent their Tuesday afternoon working to fill more sandbags and stockpile them, in case they are needed. Over the past two days, 1,500 volunteers have shown up to help.

Courtesy Sue Rogers, Sandy
Courtesy Sue Rogers, Sandy

At Cottonwood Heights Elementary School, the parking lot has been turned into a temporary volunteer center where people are working continuously to fill sandbags.

The Herriman High School football team spent Tuesday volunteering as well. Their school hasn't even opened yet, and they haven't played a game, but they are using their strength to help out.

"[We're] kind of out to help the community, get more of a feeling of being a team a little bit and give back to the community which has helped us out," said volunteer Nick Staley. "I sent an e-mail out this morning, and we decided to come out here as a team. It was a spur of the moment thing, but I think we've got a pretty good turnout."

"Houses are flooding, and they need help, and I wanted to come out with my mom," said 8-year-old volunteer Ethan Passey.

Ethan said lifting the sandbags will help him become a football player someday.

Sand/sandbags and volunteer opportunities
Cottonwood Heights
Sand and sandbags
  • Cottonwood Heights Elementary School at 2415 E. Bengal Blvd. (7530 South)
Volunteers
  • Cottonwood Heights Elementary School
Lehi
Sandbags
  • Wines Park on the corner of Center Street and 600 North.

There were also volunteers that came out to help even before county officials asked for it. When Little Cottonwood Creek surged to near-record levels two days ago, everyone from neighbors to passing bicyclists showed up to help sandbag.

"Total strangers; didn't know who I was," area resident Rob Rogers said. "I wasn't even here yet. They're here to protect my house in a time of need. I mean, I choked up." "I think that there were really two floods," said head volunteer Craig Osterloh. "The one flood was the water, and the other flood was the volunteers."

Workers placed about 1,500 sandbags, some working until 2:30 in the morning. Without the help of these Good Samaritans, a couple of the homes near the Rogers' could have literally been in deep water.

Salt Lake County Mayor Peter Corroon says roughly 85,000 sandbags have been filled over the past few days. Those who would like to volunteer to fill more sandbags Wednesday, June 9, are being asked to meet at Cottonwood Heights Elementary School at noon.

County workers don't have an estimate yet as to how much money damage this flood has caused, nor do they have a total number of houses affected. That's because more flooding could happen Wednesday, adding to the overall damage.

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Story compiled with contributions from Alex Cabrero, Sam Penrod, Jed Boal and Andrew Adams.

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