Tampering suspected in Holladay flood

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HOLLADAY — An early morning flood Wednesday that damaged a home in Holladay appears to have been human-caused, officials say.

Crews from Unified Fire Authority were called to the area near 1400 East and Murray-Holladay Boulevard just before 2 a.m. on reports of a flood, Unified Fire Authority Battalion Chief Clint Smith said.

The surge of water came from Big Cottonwood Creek and officials initially believed it was caused by debris buildup. Further investigation showed that a lock on a power pedestal that controls the floodgate had been tampered with.

The floodgate
The floodgate

"It appears (the flood) was human-caused and not the result of runoff," Smith said.

He said the water initially flowed into the parking lot of an area apartment complex, but was receding by the time firefighters arrived. The worst damage was sustained by a home located in a small depression that allowed three to four feet of water to pool in the basement.

Homeowner JJ Neward said the rising water got into the basement through a downstairs door and window. It also filled her garage, where water and debris reached the top of her car's wheel wells and got inside the vehicle.

"The water didn't have anywhere to go, so we used several large pumps to pull the water out of the home and the lot there," Smith said.

He said other measures implemented to avoid potential flooding, including a system of dredging out drainage, are working as planned and are keeping up with current water flow.

"This was an unfortunate, human, localized event," Smith said of the flooding incident.

This isn't merely manually cranking a shaft and opening and shutting a door. You have to have a working knowledge of how this system operates.

–Lt. Levi Hughes, UPD


"Someone had a motive here," said Unified Police Detective Levi Hughes.

"This isn't merely manually cranking a shaft and opening and shutting a door," Hughes said. "You have to have a working knowledge of how this system operates. So that gives us even more concern as to who would do that, knowing the damage that would be caused. "

Smith said an investigation into who may have tampered with the floodgate system has been turned over to the Unified Police Department. Anyone who may have seen anything suspicious in the area has been asked to call police.

KSL Meteorologist Grant Weyman says right now Big and Little Cottonwood creeks are not at flood stage but will be near it next week.

"Once the snow is ready to melt, then a fluctuation in temperature isn't as important as direct sunlight. When you've got direct sunlight hitting it, it generally just keeps going," he said.

Check Utah's river and creek levels at the Flood Watch River Flow Tracker here.


Written by Emiley Morgan with contributions from Jed Boal.



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