1 missing in flash flooding in Zion slot canyon; more floods expected this weekend

An undated photo of the entrance to Zion National Park. One person is missing after a flash flood at Zion National Park and a rescue team has been mobilized Saturday morning to search through The Narrows and down the Virgin River.

An undated photo of the entrance to Zion National Park. One person is missing after a flash flood at Zion National Park and a rescue team has been mobilized Saturday morning to search through The Narrows and down the Virgin River. (Ravell Call, Deseret News)



Estimated read time: 3-4 minutes

SPRINGDALE, Washington County — A woman is missing after a flash flood at Zion National Park and a rescue team was mobilized Saturday morning to search through The Narrows and down the Virgin River.

Zion National Park rangers responded Friday afternoon to a report that multiple hikers were swept away by flash flooding while hiking The Narrows near the Temple of Sinawava, park officials said. While rangers did not find anyone unaccounted for at the time, later Friday night, rangers received a report of one missing person from a park visitor.

Jetal Agnihotri, an Arizona woman, was at Zion National Park with some university friends and her friends said she went forward while they hung back. The friends told KSL-TV that Agnihotri is a hydrology major and knows about water, but does not know how to swim.

Park rangers were alerted to the initial incident at around 2:15 p.m. with a report of "multiple visitors being swept off their feet by flash flooding," said Jonathan Shafer, a spokesman for Zion National Park.

Immediately following the report, Shafer said that rangers were sent to assess the situation, at which time, a "large scale response" began. Shafer explained that after rangers hiked up Riverside Walk, they found several hikers on high ground "isolated by high water," who were then directed to stay in place.

One person was transported to the hospital Friday after the flash floods swept them off their feet and carried them several hundred yards in the Virgin River.

Shafer said Friday afternoon there had been no known missing hikers, as the rangers had interviewed every group of visitors at Riverside Walk to make sure that they weren't missing anyone in their party. Additionally, he said rescuers remained along the slot canyon watching for anyone who might be in the water.

Over 20 responders helped on Friday, Shafer said; their response continued into Saturday and park rangers continued to monitor the river during the night.

"Park rangers and other members of the Zion Search and Rescue Team responded quickly to this event, and we are continuing our efforts," Jeff Bradybaugh, Zion National Park superintendent, said in a press release. "I want to express the park's appreciation for the ongoing support we've received from the National Weather Service, Washington County Sheriff's Office, and Hurricane Valley Fire District as we continue search and rescue operations."

Earlier Friday afternoon, Shafer told KSL of a report of a flash flood warning that was issued by the National Weather Service at approximately 1:30 p.m., noting that when this happens, slot canyons like The Narrows are closed to hikers.

The National Weather Service also issued a statement Friday afternoon warning of an increased risk of flash flooding for southern Utah's National Parks and recreational areas, asking visitors to be aware.

"Make sure to check in with local visitor centers or ranger stations before heading out and have a plan if threatening weather approaches," the agency tweeted.

Shafter said they work closely with the National Weather Service whenever there is a flash flood warning, and close The Narrows.

With more flash flooding expected this weekend, hikers are encouraged to check their local weather prior to heading out.

Shafer said park visitors should be aware that The Narrows and Riverside Walk are closed due to the search and rescue operation, and the park shuttle in Zion Canyon is not running to all stops and turning around at the sixth stop, at the Grotto.

Search and rescue operations are not affecting access to Angel's Landing and most destinations in Zion Canyon, although the Emerald Pools and Kayenta Trail remain closed following rain on Thursday.

Full seven-day forecasts for areas across Utah can be found online at the KSL Weather Center.

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Arianne Brown is a breaking news reporter for KSL.com. She also enjoys finding and sharing stories of everyday Utahns, a talent she developed over several years of freelance writing for various Utah news outlets.
Emily Ashcraft joined KSL.com as a reporter in 2021. She covers courts and legal affairs, as well as health, faith and religion news.

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