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Spring flooding hasn't been as bad as expected

 Water cascading down rock
Darcie Gurule

Winter 2023 brought the snowiest conditions seen on record, nearly doubling Utah's yearly average. Given the flooding in previous years with high snowpack, officials prepared for the worst, expecting serious flooding throughout the spring months.

While rivers rose significantly and flooding on the Wasatch front did cause damage to some roadways and structures, it was not nearly as severe as many thought it would be.

Laura Briefer is director of Salt Lake City Department of Public Utilities and one of many feeling very relieved given early flooding projections for the season.

“We were really fortunate with the way that the weather behaved this spring. And especially with sort of this gradual warm up. And it really resulted in this measured runoff that in most of Salt Lake City's area did not result in the types of flows that we anticipated,” said Briefer.

Briefer attributed this situation mostly to springtime weather patterns, but also to massive preparation that many city and state officials carried out in order to prevent significant damage.

“We didn't really have any damage from flooding," Briefer said. "We had one situation where a flood control structure got blocked with an obstruction and we had water spilling from Immigration Creek onto a roadway in Salt Lake City. And then we diverted into the creek.”

Flooding mitigation also included the use of Sugar House Park as a water detention facility.

“We were able to use Sugar House Park as a detention facility, which was spectacular because people weren't used to seeing water that high in the park and over the roadway,” explained Briefer. “But it worked exactly how it was supposed to.”

Briefer hopes that this year’s flooding preparations and mitigation are good examples to use for future scenarios.

Erin Lewis is a science reporter at Utah Public Radio and a PhD Candidate in the biology department at Utah State University. She is passionate about fostering curiosity and communicating science to the public. At USU she studies how anthropogenic disturbances are impacting wildlife, particularly the effects of tourism-induced dietary shifts in endangered Bahamian Rock Iguana populations. In her free time she enjoys reading, painting and getting outside with her dog, Hazel.