UDOT: Canyon, roadway cleanup continues rain-sparked ‘avalanche’ of debris slides


SALT LAKE CITY, Utah, Aug. 9, 2019 (Gephardt Daily) — Crews in Salt Lake County and Utah County are still working to clear extensive debris after heavy rain caused numerous debris slides in Little Cottonwood Canyon and Spanish Fork Canyon on Thursday evening.

The rain came down hard and heavy, and closed roadways in Little Cottonwood Canyon in Salt Lake County; Spanish Fork Canyon, Payson and Loafer canyons in Utah County; and flooded roadways including U.S. 6, Wasatch and Carbon counties.

Little Cottonwood Canyon

Utah Department of Transportation spokesman John Gleason said in a Friday morning tweet that workers had been on the scene for many hours.

UDOT crews are cleaning debris in Little Cottonwood Canyon. Photo: UDOT

“Rocks the size of small cars and an avalanche of debris,” Gleason tweeted.

“In some areas the slide reached 15 feet deep. Our crews will be hard at work for the next several days making sure the road is safe.”

UDOT crews successfully cleared the road enough to bring out people trapped in Little Cottonwood Canyon overnight. Thirty-five vehicles were trapped, and the occupants were evacuated and were sheltering at Alta and Snowbird ski resorts.

UDOT crews are cleaning debris in Little Cottonwood Canyon. Photo: UDOT

A UDOT tweet issued at 1:27 p.m. said the canyon will be open briefly early Friday evening:

“Little Cottonwood Canyon will be open to uphill traffic from 5-5:30 pm, and downhill traffic from 5:30-6 pm. The canyon will close again at 6 pm so our crews can continue to clean up the massive debris.”

Crews have been working to clear nine debris fields over a 100-yard area.

Gleason said the magnitude of the debris and damage is unlike anything he has seen.

“Some of our folks that have worked in the canyon for 30 years say they have never seen anything like this.”

Payson and Loafer canyons

Payson Canyon remained open from Thursday night until about 2:30 p.m. Friday, and even then drivers were advised to use caution.

“Utah County Public Works says Nebo Loop Road in Payson Canyon is fully open,” said a tweet issued by Sgt. Spencer Cannon, spokesman for the Utah County Sheriff’s Office.

“There is, however, still debris on the shoulders just below Maple Dell so continue to exercise caution when driving in this area.”

Loafer Canyon was evacuated Thursday evening, but a tweet from Cannon said the evacuation order was lifted at 11:40 p.m. that night.

“Elk Ridge Mayor Ty Ellis has lifted the evacuation order for residents in Loafer Canyon,” the tweet said. “They may return to their homes but they must park vehicles in their driveways.

“For now, other than for residents, Loafer Canyon Road remains closed.”

U.S. Route 6

Crews are cleaning up a mudslide on U.S. 6 in Spanish Fork Canyon. Photo: UDOT Region 3

U.S. Route 6 near Helper was closed by mudslides Thursday night, with 3 to 5 feet of mud reported between mile markers 198 and 203.

A UDOT Region 3 tweet said the goal is to have the roadway cleared as early as 6 p.m. For updates, check the link.

“MP 188 at the US-89 Jct & MP 230 near Helper, due to a large debris slide. Estimates from the scene have lanes being closed until at least 6:00 p.m. Estimated reopen times are subject to change.”

See UDOT photos and more videos below:

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