Utah’s record heat amid record snowpack prompts flood warnings, including along Emigration Creek

As record temperatures melt northern Utah’s record snowpack, rivers and streams will be “high, fast, cold and extremely dangerous” for the next few days, according to the National Weather Service.

On Sunday, Salt Lake City’s high reached 87 degrees — a new record for April 30 and 21 degrees above normal. (The previous record for the date was 84, set in 2021.)

Another heat record was set Monday afternoon when Salt Lake City hit 87 degrees. According to the weather service, the city last had 87 degrees on Monday (May 1) in 2007, when the record was set.

Highs in the low 80s are also forecast for Tuesday and Wednesday.

Temperatures of 15 to 20 degrees above normal “result in accelerated snowmelt in low- and mid-elevation basins,” according to the weather service, creating “a high possibility of localized flooding in the coming week.”

Fear of flooding is mounting at Emigration Creek

Laura Briefer, director of the Salt Lake City Public Utilities Department, said the forecast for Monday night, Tuesday and Wednesday shows peak flows of more than 160 cubic feet per second along Emigration Creek.

“If we see these 160+ spikes for a longer period of time over the next few days,” she warned, “it’s going to challenge the system.”

In mid-April — when a blockage in the flood control system allowed water to spill over the roadway near Wasatch Hollow Park — the creek flowed at 155 cfs.

Briefer said public utility employees and Salt Lake County flood control teams will work closely together this week to manage the flood control system.

That means the two retention ponds at Emigration Creek — one in Rotary Glen Park and the other in Wasatch Hollow Park — must be oriented to provide enough space to contain the runoff.

“This works,” she said, “to reduce the intensity of the peak downstream.”

Briefer said Emigration Creek has the capacity to carry the runoff, but officials will make sure the water flows through the channels and into the pipe system without issue. Teams will also be on the lookout for storm drain covers that come off at peak flow.

If flooding does occur, Briefer expects it to be minor and limited to streets.

The effectiveness of the system controlling Emigration Creek depends on avoiding debris that could cause clogging.

On Sunday, Briefer said, a wooden pallet was stuck in the creek, causing water to flow over Emigration Canyon Road above Rotary Glen Park.

“When we have such high currents,” she said, “the sensitivity of the system is also pretty high to things like obstacles.”

Briefer said the public should avoid areas around the creek and keep an eye on children and pets. She also urged residents and businesses near creeks to clean up any debris that might wash into the waterway.

To report any issues or concerns regarding the condition of Emigration Creek, call the Public Utilities Department’s 24-hour dispatch number at 801-483-6700.

Other flooding problems

(Trent Nelson | The Salt Lake Tribune) High water levels in Salt Lake City’s Sugar House Park, which serves as a catchment area for Parleys Creek flood control, on Wednesday, April 26.

• Minor flooding is also expected near the southern fork of the Ogden River near Huntsville, according to the National Weather Service.

• The lower Weber River near Plain City and eastern Canyon Creek from approximately Jeremy Ranch to East Canyon Reservoir remain under flood control until further notice.

• Flooding temporarily closed approximately 30 miles of US Highway 89 through Spanish Fork Canyon, from the US Highway 6 intersection near Thistle to Mount Pleasant. The Utah Department of Transportation said Monday that Thistle Creek is expected to remain high over the next few days and additional closures may be required.

• A flood warning remains in effect through Friday morning along the Little Bear River near the town of Paradise, about 12 miles south of Logan. Minor flooding is expected in farmland and low-lying areas.

• The mayor of Garden City declared a state of emergency in the small town on Bear Lake south of Idaho. He urged vacation home owners there to inspect their properties due to minor flooding in the area.

• State Road 210 through Little Cottonwood Canyon remains closed for avalanche work. UDOT had no estimate for Monday afternoon’s reopening.

• State Road 190 through Big Cottonwood Canyon was closed until 5 p.m. Monday for avalanche defenses.

Temperatures are set to drop again

According to the weather service, temperatures are expected to cool down from Wednesday night to Thursday. Highs in the low 70s are expected along the Wasatch Front on Thursday, followed by temperatures in the low to mid 60s Friday through Tuesday.

The cold front is expected to bring valley rain. There is a 60% chance of rain on Thursday with the possibility of afternoon thunderstorms. Snow is expected in the mountains above 7,000 to 8,000 feet, although little accumulation is expected.

Temperatures will also drop in southern Utah, from nearly 90 degrees Monday in the St. George area to the low 80s Tuesday and Wednesday. Thursday’s forecast high is in the mid 60’s and there is a 50% chance of rain with the possibility of thunderstorms.

Skies will clear on Friday and temperatures in the mid 70’s are expected by the weekend, slightly below normal (around 80 degrees) for this time of year.

Justin Scaccy

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