Experts expect flooding to worsen in northern Utah
By LYNN DeBRUIN
SALT LAKE CITY (AP) -- Heavy weekend rains, more mountain snow and rising temperatures are increasing flood concerns throughout Utah as authorities work to reopen roads closed because of mudslides and runoff from the wettest three-month period in state history.
Gov. Gary Herbert planned to tour three Weber County sites in northern Utah on Tuesday where farm fields have been turned into lakes and roads are flooded. He was scheduled to discuss emergency preparations.
Brian McInerney, a National Weather Service hydrologist, warned that flooding could get much worse once reservoirs start using emergency spillways and if temperatures stay in the 80s for extended periods. That could happen in northern Utah by mid-June, if not sooner.
"The hotter the temperatures and more prolonged, the more severe the flooding," McInerney said.
He said the 11.73 inches of rain that fell during this March, April and May marked the wettest three-month period in Utah history since officials began keeping records in the late 1800s. The same three-month period in 1976 brought 10.39 inches of rain, the previous record.
"When you lose control of the reservoirs, you lose the ability to do flood control," McInerney said.
He said areas along the lower Weber River, Logan River, Lost Creek and East Canyon Creek -- all in northern Utah -- could see significant flooding. Land used for agriculture, as well as two dairy farms, face the biggest flood risks, though populated areas in Logan, Riverdale, Uinta and western Ogden also could get flood damage.
If temperatures rise quickly and stay hot for an extended period of time, City Creek and Little Cottonwood Creek in some of the most populated areas around Salt Lake City also could see significant flooding, McInerney said.
About 45 miles north of Salt Lake City, crew worked to reopen State Route 39, closed for a second time because of a mudslide east of Pineview Dam. Motorists also were urged to use caution on Interstate 15 south of Brigham City -- about 60 miles north of Salt Lake City -- where runoff from water-soaked fields flooded an exit ramp.
Copyright 2011 The Associated Press.