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Flash floods wipe out road, overcome Jeeps

By John Hollenhorst | Posted - May 24, 2009 at 10:43 p.m.


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SOUTHEASTERN UTAH - Chopper 5 caught a flash flood in progress near Price Sunday. That one was small, but bigger, more dramatic floods triggered a wild weekend and disrupted holiday recreation for hundreds of people.

It was a close shave with death for several Utah families who needed a helicopter rescue.

As Kevin Alsop of Draper said, "Scared out of our mind. had no idea what to think. And when we see the massive force of this water, I mean toppling these Jeeps like they were branches."

And dozens of people were stuck for two days when the only road to a popular recreation area turned into a dangerous mud-bog.

The most serious incident was southwest of Moab. A bunch of children were playing in a stream that suddenly turned into a monstrous torrent. One of the fathers says their survival was miraculous.

A convoy of three Jeeps was crossing a mild looking stream late Saturday. One vehicle stalled, and the kids got out to play in the creek. What they didn't know was that a flash flood, triggered by rains in the La Sal Mountains, was heading right toward them.

One Dad saw the first wave.

"He yelled ‘flash-flood!' The kids snapped to, moms jumped into action, and dads jumped into action," Alsop said.

They scrambled to higher ground as a second wave, five to seven feet high, ripped through.

"We saw Brian's Jeep start toppling up and over mine, and that's when we bailed," Alsop said.

They shot home video after scrambling their families even higher.

"We got all the kids and the parents up that hill just in time to watch the whole valley fill up with water," he said.

Cut off by high water, they were plucked from the canyon by a Utah Highway Patrol helicopter.

The children were quite OK with that outcome. "It was awesome! I got shotgun," they said.

Meanwhile, 60 miles to the northwest, numerous recreationists were stuck for two days in Gray's Canyon on the Green River. The single road along the left bank became impassable.

Josh Pelton, a recreationist, said, "It was terrifying. It was wet and greasy, and the road was very, very bad."

Rafters floated around the problem. ATV's drove around it.

Shon Goulding of Layton was there with his ATV. He said, "Taylor and I shuttled them up through the canyon, up through here to get through the mud so they can actually get cell service so nobody's worried about them. But we're all safe up here."

A Grand County road crew patched up the road. The only casualty was a horse.

Brent Pace, with the Grand County Sheriff's Office, said, "We had a guy riding up the river, and the bank gave way, and him and the horse went in. He was able to get out, but the horse didn't."

Late Sunday a Grand County road crew got that road open, and everyone who wanted to leave was able to drive out. Apparently, some of them were having too much fun to leave, in spite of the weather.

E-mail: hollenhorst@ksl.com

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