Cedar City, Iron County declare state of emergency after heavy rain, flooding destruction

Image: Cedar City
  • Cedar City is asking residences to report flood damage by clicking a link on its website, which can be found here.

CEDAR CITY, Utah, July 27, 2021 (Gephardt Daily) — Iron County has joined Cedar City in declaring a state of emergency the day after countless residents were displaced by the flooding that followed heavy rains.

“Preliminary data shows that we received over two inches of rain in an hour, which puts us at a 500 year flood capacity,” Cedar City Mayor Maile Wilson-Edwards told gathered reporters at a news conference that featured additional officials.

“Our systems were overwhelmed with the amount of rain in such a short period of time, and that is part of what has led to this extensive damage you see. We have businesses, student housing apartments, residential homes that have all experienced substantial flooding and have become uninhabitable.

“In the past 24 hours since this all began, our city crews have spent all of last night and all of today working on getting roadways back open, getting the street cleaned up, pumping out homes, pumping out businesses, working on traffic control and checking infrastructure, and working on storm drains, as we are projected to have increased rains throughout the end of this week and into the weekend.”

A Red Cross location has been set up at 61 N. 900 West for residents in need, and about 20 residents slept there last night, the mayor said.

Southern Utah University Interim President Mindy Benson told reporters Tuesday that dorms will be open to displaced students whose apartments were flooded and belongings were destroyed, at least until fall term begins in September and incoming students who have contracted for dorm rooms need the space. The number of displaced students stands at about 200, Benson said.

Benson said the SUU campus sustained relatively minor damage. Parts of the football stadium and its turf were flooded, she said, and roads near the student center and the Ashcroft Observatory has been partially washed away.

“But nothing compared to water damage our community has sustained,” she said. “So we’re here to rally for them and rally our students.”

Benson said the community has “showed up” for students, “and are bringing food and meals and clothing, whatever students may need, and that’s been wonderful to see.”

George Colson, Iron County emergency manager, said surrounding communities have suffered flooding damage.

“We’ve got crews down right now at the county road yard filling sandbags. Volunteers have been absolutely fantastic,” he said. “We’ve had people from all over the community show up, it’s been great.”

Several officials mentioned that volunteers are wanted to help fill sandbags and for organizational assistance.

County Commissioner Mike Bleak said landfill fees will be waived during the initial cleanup, and the Red Cross is looking for volunteers to help organize donated supplies and to fill thousands of sandbags before the next big rain hits.

Colson said the flood has been a surprise.

“Nothing much happens in Iron County to disturb our quiet lifestyle. And I think this is just the shock. We haven’t had a flood in about, well, even any flooding probably in the last two and a half years or more and so this came as a real shock, and I don’t think a lot of people were prepared for it,” he said. “We were worried about fires for weeks on end. And instead of burning up, now we’re going to drown….Right now we’re just, we’re, we’re just in a bunker mentality where people are grabbing sandbags as fast as I can fill them, and building walls around their homes, so that’s where we’re at right now.”

Wilson-Edwards summed it up.

“This has been a heartbreaking past 24 hours for our community, for the residents for the businesses…I want our residents to know that you’re not alone in this process, that we are here for you. We are here with you. And the city crews, we will continue to work,” she said.

“Overall, know that this city is here. We’re standing behind you, and beside you, and we’re working hand in hand to take care of our residents, and do what we can. We’ve been in contact last night with the governor’s office, with the Lieutenant Governor’s office, other agencies within the state and Washington County. And so we truly appreciate all of the partners both within our county and outside that have come together. Local businesses are donating supplies for those that are displaced.”

“This is truly a community built on volunteerism, and there is no better demonstration than when we all come together to serve one another. So for the residents, know we are here and we’ll continue to be here to help you as much as we can in the days and weeks to come.”


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