SALT LAKE CITY (ABC4) – With all this snow we’ve had this winter, state and local officials are now preparing for the potential of flooding this spring, and hope people at home will too.
On Tuesday, Wasatch County kicked off a sandbagging project — which they do when there is a concern for any future floods.
“Just with the snow that we have here in Wasatch County, we’re trying to help our citizens be prepared as early as possible when the weather changes,” said Wasatch County Director of Emergency Management Jeremy Hales.
Thinking ahead like this is what Wade Mathews, the PIO with the Utah Division of Emergency Management says we all need to do, and that they’ve been working with counties and cities to plan for potential flooding in advance.
“We’ve had meetings with emergency management, talking to them about the flood risks, talking to them about public outreach and messaging they can use to prepare their residents and homeowners. We’ve talked about what the process would be if we do see flooding,” he said. “We’ve been having those discussions with local emergency management, encouraging them to review their plans and procedures.”
This year is the 40th anniversary of the State Street flooding in Salt Lake City. Mathews says a lot has improved since then that will help prevent such floods, such as having new reservoirs to capture runoff.
“We learned a lot back then too. We have awareness that we need to be ready,” he said.
Laura Briefer, director of Salt Lake City Department of Public Utilities, said they’ve improved their infrastructure to better handle flooding ever since then, one of the biggest changes being the construction of the Little Dell Reservoir to help capture runoff.
They’ve also worked to maintain the drainage system, such as increasing the capacity of pipes and looking at ways water is managed as it runs the city through the surplus canal, a flood control facility operated by Salt Lake County.
When it comes to potential flooding this year, she said they’re working to be prepared and ensure their stormwater system is in good repair, making sure to look at the conveyances throughout the system, maintaining them and cleaning them out.
“We’re watching very carefully what happens with our snowpack,” she remarked. “I think we are at or already have surpassed the level of the snowpack at this time in 1983 when we had historic flooding on State Street and other areas, so we are very carefully watching how this season progresses in terms of buildup of snowpack and climatic conditions such as temperature and precipitation.”
Briefer said sandbags will be available to Salt Lake City residents at their West Temple campus.
Some areas that are at higher risk are where recent wildfires may have left burn scars. But no matter where you are in the state, Mathews is encouraging everyone to be proactive.
“The conditions are right. The concern is we don’t know if it’s gonna flood and if so, when or where, so the important thing is we are all working towards mitigating and preparing for flooding,” Mathews said.
He also recommends people review their emergency plans to make sure they have all the supplies they need and are ready to leave if an evacuation order is made. He said it’s a good idea to take photos of valuables ahead of time and get waterproof containers to keep important documents.
There are various resources to help prepare for a possible flood and other disasters such as websites like floodsmart.gov, beready.utah.gov and ready.gov.