Flooding and Drought at the Same Time? A Reality for Much of Utah

Joseph Puetz | | BrainsBrains
Salt Lake City, home to thousands of powder seekers. PC: planetware.com

The western U.S. has seen exceptional drought this summer, leading to extremely dry soil. The beginning of the monsoon season has brought heavy rainfall, which brings much-needed moisture. But with it brings flash flooding to areas that are unprepared.

According to Glen Merrill, hydrologist for the National Weather Service in Salt Lake City, Capitol Reef National Park broke a record held since 1951 and saw 0.9 inches of rain Sunday. The previous record was 0.6 inches. Between 1.13 and 2.5 inches of rain fell around the Salt Lake City area in one hour. This amount of rain fell so rapidly that the soil was unable to retain the moisture, leading to flooding damage. It also does not take much for flood water to have the force to move a car. Merrill urges people to take flash flood warnings seriously, as they can easily knock a person off their feet and possibly drown.

Flooding in Utah! PC: Scott G Winterton, Deseret News

However, the western U.S. will take precipitation any way they can get it. The onslaught of rain has brought relief for outdoor irrigation in the state, as well as increasing the soil moisture. Southern Utah along with Arizona, New Mexico, Nevada, and southwestern Colorado have lessened the category of drought from exceptional to extreme.

On July 24, the Great Salt Lake had reached its lowest water levels in history. Certainly, some of the rainwater reached the lake, but the soil is so dry that much of the water was absorbed before it flowed into the lake. According to Kim Wells, a spokeswoman for the Utah Division of Water Resources, the recent rains are unlikely to affect the water level. The melting snowpack in the spring is what fills the reservoirs and the lake. Although Wells does mention that many streams in the area are seeing increased water flow due to the storm.

Merrill believes that the only way for the water level in Salt Lake to rise is through big snowpacks. Officials are crossing their fingers for a couple of big snow years in a row. So let’s get those snow dances going now, not only for face shots in the winter but for increased moisture in the summer months!

Extreme flooding in Zion National Park. PC: nps.gov

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