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Sandy Journal

Sandy’s Public Utilities crews are working hard to minimize flood danger

May 08, 2023 01:00PM ● By Sarah Morton Taggart

Crews have worked to stabilize the banks of Little Cottonwood Creek to lessen the impact of spring floods. (Sarah Morton Taggart/City Journals)

More than 50 people from the Willow Creek area of Sandy gathered on a sunny evening in April. Many remember the flooding in 2010 that almost destroyed a home and were there to learn what the city is doing to address their concerns.

“After the flooding there, we learned some things,” said Tom Ward, director of Public Utilities. “The county stepped up major funding on those creeks. Little Cottonwood Creek is much more stable on either side and also deeper.” 

Of all natural disasters, flooding is the one most likely to occur in Utah communities, according to the resource guide prepared by the governor’s office. After decades of drought, historic levels of snowpack could cause a season of flooding. 

Ward presented a snowpack, water supply and flood runoff update to the Sandy City Council on March 28. He explained that the likelihood of flooding from snowmelt is dependent on how gradually temperatures rise. 

“If they start predicting 70 degree-plus temperatures consistently up at Alta, and we still have a lot of water on the mountain, we know it’s going to come quickly by the time that’s happening,” Ward said. “The staff will be out patrolling every night during those events.” 

Public Utilities is doing as much as it can to prepare. They have identified potential “hot spots” for flooding along creeks, including Dry Creek, Big Willow Creek and Little Willow Creek. Crews have been removing debris and stabilizing banks to minimize risk of slides and property damage.

“Sandy has several thousand inlet grates that let water into the infrastructure,” said Scott Ellis, assistant director and operations manager for Public Utilities. “Of those, 70 or 80 are critical that we have to monitor. They get looked at several times a week and before each storm.”

The city has street sweepers to help keep gutters clean, but Ellis urges residents to do their part to help out. 

“If you can just get out and look at your own yard and see if there’s anything obvious (like) clogged rain gutters causing backflow into window wells,” Ellis said. “Sweep your gutters. If there’s something like newspaper or cardboard that could cover one of the inlet grates, do us all a favor and throw it in the garbage and save us all a headache.” 

Officials urge residents to stay alert to news and weather reports. If flooding does occur, do not go near flooded rivers or streams and keep children and pets a safe distance away from any flooded area. It’s also not safe to drive through flooded streets. The water may appear shallow, but could be much deeper if the pavement below has been washed away. 

If residents encounter a flooding emergency, they should call 911. For non-emergency questions or concerns, call Sandy Public Works at 801-352-4400.

“We would rather have residents call our team than put out sandbags on their own,” Ward said. “The call allows us to track where hotspots are.”

Though the threat is real, Sandy’s Chief Operating Officer Shane Pace believes the city is well-prepared. 

“I was the Public Utilities director in 2010 when we had flooding in a lot of portions of our city,” Pace said. “The coordination between Salt Lake County and Sandy City this year compared to 2010 is dramatically different. They’re spending a lot more time with us and working with us. I think it’s going to pay off.”

Ward agrees. “We feel pretty good. We’ve done a lot of work, while everyone was not worried about this, to prepare.” 

In anticipation of spring flooding, Gov. Spencer Cox issued an executive order in March that outlined the state resources to be used in the event of flooding. λ