On Tuesday night, the Provo River peaked at 2,100 cubic feet per second. As of Wednesday morning it was running at about 1,900 cfs. Normal is 150 cfs. So what does that mean? “Stay away from the water!” said Provo Deputy Mayor Corey Norman.
The National Weather Service has issued a flood warning for the river below Deer Creek Dam. The warning began last week when water managers started letting more water out of Deer Creek Reservoir to make room for water from melted snow. The NWS has extended it now until Friday.
“Outdoor enthusiasts, including tubers and fishermen, should avoid the Provo River below Deer Creek Reservoir through Friday morning due to dangerous conditions,” according to the NWS warning. “Keep children away from storm drains, culverts, creeks and streams. Water levels can rise rapidly and sweep children away.”
Just looking at the river isn’t a good way to judge how fast it’s moving. “Remember the water only 6 inches under the surface is flowing maybe twice as fast as what you see moving on top,” Mayor John Curtis wrote on his blog this week.
“Remember the water only 6 inches under the surface is flowing maybe twice as fast as what you see moving on top.” — Provo Mayor John Curtis
Though the warning is now only until Friday, Norman said city and water officials expect the high water levels in the river to continue for a few more weeks.
So far, there hasn’t been any flood damage in Provo, he said. Over the past 10-20 years, the city has been making improvements around the river to prepare for high water. Crews have widened the river in areas, built up and reinforced banks with rocks, and removed debris. Because of all that, flooding in Provo is unlikely.
Though there have been infrastructure improvements to prepare for high water, property owners along the river have built up islands, decks and docks. As soon as the city got the flood warning, officials contacted every homeowner and property owner along the river to tell them to remove everything they could.
“Any manmade structure is likely going to be damaged or completely ruined,” he said.
In addition, the city has posted signs telling people to stay out of the water, Norman said. Firefighters and public works staff also have been handing out fliers. “We tried to be pretty aggressive with the public outreach.”