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16 Dead In Utah Flash Floods


Flash flooding Utah
(AP Photo/Rick Bowmer)

People walk pass a severely damaged vehicle swept away by a surge of water during a flood Tuesday, Sept. 15, 2015, in Hildale, Utah. The floodwater swept away multiple vehicles in the Utah-Arizona border town, killing several people.

Authorities say they have found the body of a fifth hiker killed in a flash flood that swept through a narrow canyon in Utah's Zion National Park.

Park spokeswoman Aly Baltrus said Wednesday that crews found the body downstream of Keyhole Canyon. The bodies of three men and one woman were found Tuesday, and searchers are still looking for two others.

The group of seven people in their 40s and 50s from California and Nevada set out Monday, before park officials closed canyons due to flooding.

Park rangers say the group was told about the danger of flash flooding before they entered the canyon, but there was no way to warn them once the fast-moving waters began to rise.

Rangers say they don't judge visitors' technical ability and let them decide whether to go.

The five people found dead are among the 16 people killed by flash flooding Monday. Twelve of those killed were part of a group of women and children whose van was swept away by flood waters near the Utah-Arizona border.

Two and a half inches of rain fell in just a couple of hours in and around the polygamist communities of Hildale, Utah, and Colorado City, Arizona. The rural area is home to about 8,000 people.

Dave DeMille with The Spectrum newspaper in Utah told KNPR’s State of Nevada flooding in canyons is very common. 

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"Typically anytime storms are coming through, especially Zion National Park and a lot of the other canyons here in Color Country, as we call it, we do experience flooding," DeMille said.

He said the narrow canyons, or slot canyons as they are known, can fill up fast and they are difficult, if not impossible, to get out of when the water rises.

"People aren't prepared for floods," DeMille said. "They aren't cognizant of the power of water."

In the instance of the van full of women and children that was swept away, DeMille said it didn't look like a lot of water covering the road, but just a foot of water can move a car.

Crews in Hildale are still searching for the 16th person missing from that van. 

DeMille said the National Guard and the state are heading to the area to help with cleanup. 

(The Associated Press contributed to this report)


Dave DeMille, reporter, The Spectrum, St. George, Utah. 

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