Flooding in Hildale overturns cars, Zion rivers swell
(KUTV) Hildale officials confirmed Monday night at least eight people were killed when heavy rains fueled a flash flood that washed two cars off the road near the crossing of Canyon Street and Williams Avenue.
The rains washed down from a nearby mountain and took the cars several hundred yards downstream according to fire official Kevin Barlow. Crews were still working Monday night but the search was scaled back late Monday night as five or more people were missing in addition to those who are confirmed dead.
Barlow said 16 people were in the two vehicles. He said rains weren't heavy in the town of Hildale and the flood came from the surrounding area. The waters washed down Short Creek bringing debris and muddy water into the area.
"They were well back from the flood, but this was a very significant surprise flash flood that caught them unawares," Barlow told the Salt Lake Tribune.
Officials have not identified any of the dead or indicated who is missing but Barlow also told the Tribune that young children and mothers are among those dead and missing and that victims appeared to be from multiple families. They also said three survivors were known who either got out on their own or were pulled out of the vehicles.
They said seven agencies were involved in search and rescue efforts.
Hildale sits adjacent to Colorado City, Ariozona and the area is prone to flash floods.
Hildale mayor Phillip Barlow said there were at least three mothers in the cars and the youngest child was 4-years-old. He said the flood waters were still active making the search dangerous and the banks weren't stable.
Reports say the two cars were stopped and observing the swollen river when a surprise wall of water swept through the area taking the cars and passengers away. Some of those swept away were standing outside of the cars observing the water when the surprise flash flood struck.
Hildale and Colorado City are collectively known as Short Creek, home to the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. The communities are known for practicing polygamy.
Flooding was also reported near Zion National Park.
Additionally the north fork of the Virgin River in Zion rose from 42 cubic feet per second to 2628 cfs in about an hour's time. The east fork of the river rose from 123 cfps to 3692 cfs near the town of Springdale, just south of Zion. Both waterways are trending downward.
The weather service forecasts additional thunderstorms to move through the area in the evening and nighttime hours. It had earlier reported that cars were washed away.
The National Weather Service expected flooding in areas including Zion National Park, Hildale, Orderville, Springdale, Rockville, Coral Pink Sand Dunes and Mt. Carmel.