Utah Flash Flooding Kills 19; One Remains Missing

By By Mark Leberfinger, AccuWeather.com Staff Writer
September 22, 2015, 1:47:31 AM EDT

Nineteen people were killed late Monday afternoon after flash flooding occurred along the Utah-Arizona border, Utah and federal officials report.

The deadly flooding swept two vehicles off the road after floodwaters poured down a mountain into Hildale, Utah. As many as 16 people were in the two vehicles, including mothers and children. Three people were rescued, according to the Washington County Emergency Management Agency.

Four people who were canyoneering were found dead on Tuesday after the flash flooding hit the nearby Zion National Park, park officials said. They were in a group of seven people who didn't exit Keyhole Canyon on Monday evening.

On Wednesday, searchers recovered the bodies of two more hikers in the park, the Associated Press reported.

As weather conditions improved Thursday, rescuers were able to locate the body of the seventh victim, according to a National Park Service news release.

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Radar estimates, however, showed the mountains northwest of Hildale picking up between 1 to 2 inches of rain in two waves on Monday afternoon, with the second wave occurring between 4:15 and 5:15 p.m. local time, about 30 minutes before the vehicles were swept away, AccuWeather Meteorologist Brett Rathbun said.

The Utah National Guard and an Urban Search and Rescue Team assisted fire officials on Tuesday with the search in Hildale, Washington County officials said.


Hildale declared a disaster emergency as a result of the flooding. Residents in Hildale and neighboring Colorado City, Arizona, have been asked to boil their water due to damage to the two communities' municipal water system.

The stream systems are not as well developed in that part of the southwestern United States as they are in normally wetter regions, AccuWeather Chief Meteorologist Elliot Abrams said.

"That factor and the steep terrain likely contributed to the deadly flash flood," Abrams said.

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The Virgin River in the Zion National Park rose 1.16 million gallons per minute in 1 hour or 2.5 feet on Monday as a result of the storms that moved through the area, the National Weather Service said.


More rain and thunderstorms triggered flash-flood warnings on Tuesday, according to the National Weather Service offices in Las Vegas and Salt Lake City.

"Showers and thunderstorms will be around the region for the next couple days," Rathbun said.

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