Tuesday, May 30, 2023

Utah allocates millions to prepare for flood damage

SALT LAKE CITY, Utah — As record winter snowpack melts and waterfalls trickle down the Rocky Mountains, Utah lawmakers set aside millions of dollars Wednesday to prepare for potentially historic flooding.

The state is facing a decline from winter in the western United States, where many places end the season with more than double the 30-year average measurement of water equivalent of snow, the data show.

State and local officials from eastern California to western Colorado anticipate increased runoff in the coming months, inundating agricultural areas and flooding streams and reservoirs.

Moderate spring temperatures allowed the snow to melt slowly and prevented most of the hazards and damage. But the runoff has inundated neighborhoods in the Salt Lake City area, opened storm drains and muddied residential streets.

Just this week, some residents living on northern Utah’s Ogden River were evacuated, a flooded highway near Spanish Fork Canyon was temporarily closed, and grass planted in the low-lying areas of the Bear River was under water. were submerged.

The flooding, while potentially damaging, is a welcome change for Utah officials, who are more used to dealing with the region’s worst drought in at least 1,200 years. For Governor Spencer Cox, it is an answer to the public’s call for prayers and divine intervention.

“If it has taught us anything,” Republican Rep. Mike Schultz said of the unusually wet winter, “It’s just that the weather in Utah is really unpredictable.”

Drought indices based on long-term annual averages suggest that much of the western United States is in a state of drought that will not be resolved by a wet year. Scientists also note that climate change has increased short-term variability in weather patterns.

After a special session called Wednesday to extend the state of emergency for the Utah flood, lawmakers have appropriated a total of $40 million to deal with flood damage.

The money was drawn from sources including the state’s general fund, the transportation fund, and money earmarked for wildfire suppression. Republican Senate President Stuart Adams said he was not sure the full lump sum would be needed, but had planned conservatively with fresh memories of the 1983 flood rippling through the streets of Salt Lake City.

Sen. Scott Sandel, a Republican from northern Utah, said he was particularly concerned about areas like Snowbird in Little Cottonwood Canyon, where the snow remains and there is no reservoir or dam at lower elevations to help control it. .

“We have saturated soil, we have runoff and some flood points that worry us,” he said. “Event of 2 inches of rain in most parts of the state will change our outlook in a jiffy. Mother Nature will decide how fast it will go down.

Nation World News Desk
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