SALT LAKE CITY (ABC4) — We are just wrapping up one of our largest snowstorms of the year with tremendous mountain snowfall and a Winter Storm Warning for valleys in the first week of April. With a record-breaking snowpack, is 2023 the year Utahns see the return of the 1983 flood that sent a river running through State Street?
Long story short: Experts say the flood risk in Utah will depend on the forecast. But over the next week, temperatures in Utah are expected to climb rapidly.
Along the Wasatch Front, we have had highs in the 30s to start the week, but by Easter Sunday, temperatures could hit as high as 60 degrees. The steady increase in temperatures also applies to St. George where an approximate 30º temperature swing is possible and the first 80º temperature reading could happen on Easter Sunday. The Pine Valley Mountains have plenty of snow, and this type of warming will accelerate melting, which could lead to dangerous conditions.
“The biggest thing, especially in Southern Utah, is rivers will be running high and fast,” said Christine Kruse, lead meteorologist for the National Weather Service in Salt Lake City. “Everything will be running high and fast. The slot canyons and normally dry washes will have more water. It will be super cold water. Even if you are a strong swimmer, it can get dangerous really fast.”
Utah hit more than 28 inches of snow-water equivalent this week, breaking one of the many new all-time high records this 2022-2023 season. The southwest corner of the state is currently sitting above 300% of the normal snowpack. This record is significant for many reasons, one being it beat out the notorious flood year of 1983 in which the term the “State Street River” was coined.
“One of the issues of 1983 is that we stayed cold and snowy deep into the spring and warmed up quickly. If we see that again, it does increase our flood risk,” said Jordan Clayton, the supervisor for the Utah Snow Survey Program.
Kruse adds that safety has to be the priority this year.
“We always say keep pets and kids away from waterways, just be safe. This year, it’s necessary to be careful around any streams This is something we will be dealing with most of the Spring. We don’t want any tragedies this year with someone falling in drowning,” Kruse said.
For more information on flood safety, visit Be Ready Utah.