The 1983 flood that turned State Street into a river


SALT LAKE CITY (Good4Utah) – 35 years ago Utah churches canceled services and businesses gave their employees the day off. Why? Because State Street was a river. Literally. 

People talk about the flood of 1983 pretty much every spring when the snow melts.

You see we had record amounts of snow in the winter of 1982-83… try 700 inches at Parleys Summit – verses a norm of about 300 inches.

And a really cold May— that is until the last week of May when it hit 90 degrees.

At first, they thought they could hold it in Parleys Canyon… it didn’t work

The water came and manholes became geysers. It came down 13th south out of Parleys Canyon.  It gushed through Memory Grove tearing out a new channel. Things didn’t look too good…

People had about a day to save the town. Thousands turned out to sand bag the city. For the first time even churches were canceled on May 29th.

It was no picnic on the holiday weekend.

A million sandbags were stuffed with sand. Plastic river beds made a new roaring river. There was a human chain as bags went from the big sand pile down the street and into the river.

In one day bridges were built over the mighty state street river. Some for cars, some for people.

Like any good river, it became a destination tourist site. It just seemed very strange to have a river roaring down the street.  

13 days later it was all done. The city picked upped its million soggy sand bags and tore out the 30 thousand dollar bridges that we put up in just one day.

Hosed down the street…

And this all became a memory to talk about every spring.

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