20 hikers rescued from canyon after flash flooding hits Moab area

Grand County sheriff's search and rescue teams help 20 stranded hikers down from Grandstaff Canyon just outside of Moab on Friday. Flash flooding wreaked havoc in the region over the weekend.

Grand County sheriff's search and rescue teams help 20 stranded hikers down from Grandstaff Canyon just outside of Moab on Friday. Flash flooding wreaked havoc in the region over the weekend. (Grand County sheriff's search and rescue)


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MOAB — Nearly two dozen hikers were rescued from a popular canyon outside of Moab after they had become "trapped" from flash flooding that impacted the area last week, Grand County search-and-rescue officials said.

It all started when the Grand County sheriff's search-and-rescue team responded to a report of three hikers who had become stranded by flooding in Grandstaff Canyon shortly after 6 p.m. on Friday.

Strong thunderstorms produced nearly an inch of rain in parts of Moab in a short period on Friday, creating flash flooding. Videos and photos sent to KSL showed heavy flooding in some areas, as well as waterfalls forming atop the redrock canyons scattered across the region.

Search-and-rescue teams arrived at the canyon and hiked until they reached high water, but by then they were able to hear the party that had called for assistance. The team launched a drone from that spot in the canyon where they located 17 other people who had become "trapped" by flooding in the canyon, officials wrote in a social media post on Monday.

Search-and-rescue teams waited for the floodwaters to recede before they crossed over and helped the hikers across the flooded area. About 11 p.m., those efforts began as the flooding subsided and the hikers were checked by Grand County paramedics.

Grand County sheriff's search-and-rescue teams help hikers cross a flooded creek in Grandstaff Canyon on Friday.
Grand County sheriff's search-and-rescue teams help hikers cross a flooded creek in Grandstaff Canyon on Friday. (Photo: Grand County sheriff's search-and-rescue)

The team wrote that a Utah Department of Public Safety helicopter was also requested out of precaution because the stranded hikers were "reportedly wet and becoming cold," creating the risk of hypothermia.

Search-and-rescue crews were also dispatched to the Mill Creek Canyon and Medieval Chamber areas outside of Moab on Friday also as a precaution, but all of the hikers in those areas were safe and accounted for without any assistance.

The rescue was one impact of the storms in the Moab area. Downed power lines and road damage were also reported, while the Grand County Sheriff's Office said one of the region's radio towers was struck by lightning, which caused radio communication problems.

Canyonlands Solid Waste Authority officials wrote on Monday that residents can dump any storm debris, such as tree limbs or mud, at the Moab Landfill (1282 Sand Flats Road) for free this week.

Flash flooding is possible in the region again this week and is a regular possibility throughout the typical monsoon season, which is why Grand County search-and-rescue officials said Friday's rescue serves as a reminder as to why it's important to check weather forecasts before heading out into dry washes and canyons, which are prone to flash flooding.

"If there is rain, especially thunderstorms, in the forecast, do not enter canyons, washes or streambeds," the agency wrote. "They can originate many miles away. Water levels rise extremely fast (and) flash floods are often strong enough to carry dangerous debris such as trees and boulders."

Several hikers who were rescued on Friday also didn't have adequate lighting with them when they were helped off the canyon. Officials recommend that hikers bring "light sources" just in case, as well as extra water, snacks and layers, and an emergency satellite messaging device.

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Carter Williams is a reporter who covers general news, local government, outdoors, history and sports for KSL.com.

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