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Dave Cawley, KSL Newsradio, File

Spring flooding risks high after snow-packed winter, experts say

By Kate Valentine, KSL TV | Posted - Mar 24th, 2019 @ 6:46pm

SALT LAKE CITY — Spring is definitely in the air. More and more people are heading outside to soak in every bit of sunshine after a winter packed with snowfall.

As temperatures warm up, snow is melting into Utah’s rivers and streams, increasing the risk of flooding and fast-moving rivers.

Northern Utah currently has between 110-140 percent of typical snowpack and parts of Southern Utah have 175 percent of the average, according to the National Weather Service.

All that snow will be melting starting in a few weeks and will be flowing into rivers.

“Hopefully, it comes off in an orderly fashion,” said National Weather Service Meteorologist Mike Seaman.

If it warms up too quickly, snow is going to overwhelm Utah’s rivers.

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Spring typically brings the potential for swift, fast runoff.

There’s high risk already that anyone that falls in could be carried downstream and potentially under the current.

“With the high, fast flows of the water … it doesn’t take much for a child to fall in,” Seaman warned.

As people start heading outside, the National Weather Service and Unified Fire Authority are urging them to watch kids, pets and loved ones around the water.

UFA hopes people heed the warning, but they’re still ready to respond and rescue anyone in need.

“If somebody does jump in the river or is swept away by the river, we urge that somebody does not jump in after them and try to rescue them because often times that person becomes another victim,” said Unified Fire Authority public information officer Ryan Love.

If someone does fall into the river, they should float on their back, lifting their feet up to avoid getting caught by a tree branch or other debris in the water.

FILE - Unified Fire Authority's Todd Burrows and Ed Arriola practice rescue drills during swift-water rescue training in the Provo River on Thursday, May 10, 2018. (Photo: Laura Seitz, KSL)

River water comes from melting snow, so it's right around freezing temperatures, which can also be deadly.

“It’s almost shocking or paralyzing,” Love says.

Even if rivers don’t look deep, they can still be dangerous. It only takes 6 inches of water to knock someone off their feet.

Typically spring runoff is between April to May, but it is likely the runoff may continue into June this year because of the amount of snow in the mountains.

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