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Mexico storms soak Utah

Mudslides and flooding wreak havoc in valley

SHARE Mexico storms soak Utah

The day the Mormon pioneers arrived in Salt Lake Valley, Wilford Woodruff happily took note of a drenching thunderstorm.

The shower "rained over nearly the whole valley; it also rained a little forepart of the night," he wrote in his diary on July 24, 1847. "We felt thankful for this, as it was the generally conceived opinion that it did not rain in the valley during the summer season."

As Davis County digs out from this week's thunderstorm damage, with their flooded basements and mudslides, residents know it does indeed rain in northern Utah during the summer. Only it's not often this severe, and usually the summer monsoon starts later in July, if it hits at all.

"They were hit-and-miss type thunderstorms," said Dan Brown, forecaster at the National Weather Service forecast office on North Temple, referring to the spate of storms from July 6-9.

"It's a monsoonal flow, so it's very moist," he added. The "Mexican Monsoon" forms over Mexico and southern Arizona, and sometimes moves north as far as Utah. When it comes, it carries a great deal of moisture with it.

On Tuesday, as crews and residents in northern Utah cleaned up mud and debris from the previous night's storm, another storm swept through Salt Lake County.

But the National Weather Service said Tuesday's late afternoon storm will probably be the last of this particular monsoon pattern. It appears to be on its way out, meteorologist Chris Gibbons said.

Light rains are expected throughout Utah on Wednesday and perhaps later into the week. But by the weekend, expect to see a different scenario.

"It's going to be hot and dusty by the weekend," Gibson said.

Crews in Layton were still out Tuesday afternoon working with residents to clean up mud and debris.

Davis County Sheriff's Office Lt. Kelly Sparks said East Layton, Farmington, Kaysville and Fruit Heights were hit the hardest by the storm, and that the primary damage came in the form of flooded basements, mud in the streets and other water damage. In light of the storm's damage and the way it took residents by surprise, the sheriff's office released a number of precautions for those who are in areas susceptible to major storm and flooding damage.

"They're not anything you shouldn't be aware of," Sparks said.

The precautions include keeping sandbags and water pumps on hand at homes and businesses since many cities do not keep sandbags filled for residents to pick up during an emergency. Residents should also regularly keep storm drains clear of debris, contact the Red Cross for cleanup kits during storms and watch out for neighbors, particularly the elderly.

Crews in Tooele County are also dealing with the aftermath of rain storms that rolled through the county from Thursday through Monday. Crews began "emergency rehabilitation" in key wildlife areas, BLM spokeswoman Teresa Rigby said.

Located east of U-36 between Tooele and Stockton, the areas were charred by wildfires during the first week of July. With vegetation all but gone, the two inches of rain that recently pounded the earth caused major erosion of soil and ash, Rigby said. Crews are spreading a mixture of grass, forb and browse seeds in the most critical areas to combat erosion, Rigby said.

Both Davis and Tooele Counties largely missed Tuesday's storm.

At 5:15 p.m. Tuesday, the National Weather Service issued a "severe storm warning" on a thunderstorm that originated in the Oquirrh Mountains, Gibson said.

By 5:30 p.m. the storm hit Herriman and a radar reading showed an inch of rain fell there. At 5:40 p.m. the storm was in West Jordan and a weather observer there reported about a half inch of rain, he said.

Crews were called to assist with flooded basements in three homes in a Copperton subdivision near 11600 South and 4000 West and one home in Herriman near 13800 South and 6500 West, Salt Lake County Fire Capt. Jay Ziolkowski said.

Then the storm moved northeast and calmed, Gibson said. By 5:45 p.m. the storm warning was lifted and when it reached Salt Lake City the weather observer at the Salt Lake International Airport reported only "a trace" of rain, he said.

Monday night's storm also "pretty much missed Salt Lake," with only 0.66 of an inch reported at the airport.

The most rain reported that night fell on Fruit Heights, "where all the mud slides were. They had 2.1 inches in an hour," Brown said.

That was the only day for which Fruit Heights residents reported much rain. On the other hand, some places were soaked for most of four days, such as Stansbury Park, where 2.11 inches fell July 6-9. Some other rainfall totals for the past few days include: East Layton, 3.08 inches over the four days, July 6-9; South Ogden, 2.38; Centerville, 1.4 inches on July 9 alone; Kaysville, 1.86 inches in an hour, July 9; Ogden's northeast bench, 1.08 inches on July 9; Layton, 1.9 inches in 30 minutes, July 9; Morgan, Morgan County, 1.25 inches in 15 minutes, July 9; and Farmington, 1.68 inches on July 9.

E-mail: bau@desnews.com; lwhite@desnews.com; lhancock@desnews.com