Wet weather poses flooding concerns in burn zone

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HERRIMAN -- Besides fire concerns, many Herriman residents are now worried about flooding. City administrators say they are doing their best to clear storm drains in anticipation of rain fall on the burn zone.

Some residents who have been allowed to return home say they're worried about rain bringing debris down from the hillsides. One severe thunderstorm has already passed through the area.

Doug Bagley's Herriman home escaped the fire. Now, he's worried about possible floods.

This is going to be a longer-term issue that we're going to need to sit down with Herriman and the state so we don't have massive other catastrophes later on.

–Unified Fire Authority Chief Michael Jensen

"We're pretty nervous. It's a steep slope. If we get a good thunderstorm, it goes into the sewer system so it goes down the streets. If that's not capable to handle it, we've got flooding on every side in that area," said Doug Bagley, who lives in Fort Herriman Cove.

In Draper this past summer, residents saw what can happen if those drains aren't clear. When heavy rains hit, the burn scar left from the 2008 Corner Canyon fire allowed water and mud to flow freely into neighborhoods and homes.

Bagley said the culverts are 50 percent blocked now, even after the neighbors cleared out brush and debris by hand.

Herriman Public Works crews have been making sure storm drains near the burned out areas are clear. They say because of the fire, there's a bigger emphasis on making sure drains not clogged. They know when heavy rains come, all that ash, debris and mud from the burn scar will be coming down the mountain.

"If we do get some of that stuff down inside the storm drains, some of those things we should be able to take care of fairly quickly," said Monte Johnson, director of Herriman Public Works.

Public works crews are only allowed to go to areas that are no longer evacuated, meaning drains in areas close to the fire will have to wait to be cleared.

"Until we can say the fire is out, we just can't have crews in there that aren't trained," said Unified Fire Authority Chief Michael Jensen.

Until the first heavy rainfall hits the area, no one knows what impact any potential mudslides will have. That means plenty of unanswered questions.

"How do we direct the water? How do we control it? Do we have a plan? How do we work together to minimize the damage?" Bagley wonders.

Thankfully, the rain that fell Wednesday was not enough to cause any mudslides or debris flows.

The National Weather Service says typically it takes about five years for the hillside to get back to where it was before a fire, which means this is something Herriman could be dealing with for a while.

"It's not going to be a short-term problem. This is going to be a longer-term issue that we're going to need to sit down with Herriman and the state so we don't have massive other catastrophes later on," Jensen said.


Story compiled with contributions from Alex Cabrero and Becky Bruce.

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