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Then and now: Remembering the 1983 flooding in Utah County

By Ashley Kewish | Posted - Mar. 2, 2017 at 10:27 p.m.


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LEHI — At the Lehi Historical Society, there is a man who likes to think about the past.

"Not too many people know about the history of the place," said Russ Felt, a longtime Lehi resident. Felt is the former principal of Lehi High School.

Now, he's more of a historian. "That stuff just piques my interest," Felt said.

He even remembers when a certain movie was filmed just around the corner. "I was there," he said. "You know the movie 'Footloose,' right?"

Lately, Felt's been thinking of 1983 and the land north of Utah Lake. "It was just lots of water," he said. "We cut out the brush and sandbagged the area to keep the water out. Some homes turned into islands."

A lot has changed. As Lehi's population has grown, houses have crept closer to the water's edge.

"There were fences," he said. "They were poor fences, and there certainly wasn't a school and (this many) homes."

Now, more than a thousand homes stand in that area.

"When you look at the snowpack, we have of 160-170 percent of normal. We're going to have big runoff, if we warm up suddenly and bring out the sun like we saw in 1983," said Brian McInerney, a hydrologist with The National Weather Service. "We're at a much bigger snowpack than that of 1983."

However, the floodwaters of 1983 didn't just saturate the land, it made for policy changed. KSL reached out to Lehi City and city officials said they've made major changes since 1983, including grading of the area. Homes are now up higher than before, and there is additional room for any runoff.

The Utah Lake Commission now monitors the lake levels hourly. Currently, the lake is only at 51 percent capacity or about 4 feet below the compromise level.

It's good news for residents like Felt, who like thinking about the past, but don't want to see history repeat itself.

"Hopefully, everything will be all right," he said.

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Ashley Kewish

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