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Severe storms worry residents, meteorologists of future flooding


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SALT LAKE CITY — Several severe storms have caused major flooding across the state, and many residents are worried what other damage could be caused by continued rain.

Highway 191 in Duchesne County was flooded with mud and water Thursday morning after a downpour rolled through eastern Utah. UDOT reported debris four feet deep in places.

In Emery County, soaking rains forced mud and rock onto SR 31 in Huntington Canyon, closing the road for the second day in a row. A couple reported being trapped in their car Tuesday with debris pinning their doors shut.

Alpine was also flooded Saturday by a fast moving storm and rain run off through a burn scar in the mountains. The intense thunderstorms have meteorologists across the state talking.

"It is fairly unusual for this time of year to see these kinds of storms popping in here, with this kind of intensity and this kind of duration," said NCRS Snow Survey Hydrologist Randy Julander.

Julander said the soil is super-saturated in the southern parts of the state, and is primed for dangerous conditions similar to the catastrophic flooding of January 2005.

"If we get a storm like that over the next couple of weeks, we could see that kind of response coming from any one of these watersheds down there," Julander said.

KSL Meteorologist Grant Weyman said flash floods are not unusual for early September, but the most recent storms have had lasting effects.

"This is a really slow-moving storm, and a pretty big scale storm," Weyman said. "We've had days and days of heavy rain. The southern part of the state started with it, then it moved east. The rain amounts are amazing for those southern areas. Now, the bulk of that storm is moving this way."

Rain totals since Monday morning hit nearly three inches in Capitol Reef, over three inches in Zion National Park, and nearly four inches in Buck Flat in the southern Utah Mountains.

"Sometimes it takes us months to get that much rain," Weyman said.

Julander and Weyman both agreed the burn scars remain the most critical areas for flooding, but Julander is increasingly concerned about the saturated soils in southern Utah as the storms continue to hit that region.

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Jed Boal

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