Brian Head fire burn scar poses threat of flash flooding in monsoon season

CEDAR CITY – Monsoon season has officials a little more than concerned about travel to Brian Head as the scar left over from last year’s fire has increased the chance of severe flooding and landslides.

While expecting more rain and flooding, Brian Head officials were hit with a little surprise Wednesday afternoon when a hail storm moved in – Photo courtesy of Brian Head Police Chief Dan Benson – Behind the Headlines

Monday, authorities were contending with rocks the size of vehicles and mud up to five feet high from the debris flows from the burn scar that covered state Route 143. One vehicle was almost swept away in the flood, Parowan Police Ken Carpenter said.

“A good Samaritan came along and helped pull the car out but if he hadn’t been there the vehicle would have gone over the edge in the flood,” he said.

Early Wednesday morning brought a similar scene as law enforcement was once again called out to deal with the aftermath of the Brian Head fire that burned nearly 72,000 acres last summer before crews were able to contain it.

Carpenter said officials are concerned about travel to Brian Head via state Route 143 and suggests using state Route 14 up Cedar mountain and through Cedar Breaks Monument, especially if there is a forecasted storm on the horizon.

“People who are traveling from or to Brian Head or are planning to recreate in the canyon need to first check their weather app,” Carpenter said.

Authorities warn however, that thunderstorms in a high desert area can hit unexpectedly causing sudden and severe flooding within minutes.

While officials have begun restoring the canyon from the fire, the burn scar area is still very unstable.

“When it starts raining it comes down and it comes down quickly and things can change in just minutes,” Carpenter said. “People who are traveling back and forth to Brian Head need to be mindful of that and those recreating in the area and they need to be prepared for storms and flooding.”

It only takes six inches of moving water for a car to lose control and a foot for it to float.

“If you’re traveling and it starts to storm, drivers need to drive slow and steady,” Iron County Sheriff Lt. Del Schlosser said. “If it’s raining so hard that it’s not safe then drivers need to pull to the side of the road and stop. Don’t try and drive through the flood. Also, stay off your cell phones and give yourself plenty of distance between your vehicle and the other person’s vehicle.”

A weather app shows a forecasted snow storm in Brian Head Wednesday afternoon – Photo courtesy of Brian Head Police Chief Dan Benson – Behind the Headlines

If flooding waters prevent a vehicle from traveling any further, Schlosser suggests drivers pull off the roadway but be mindful of flood zones so not to get caught in an unsafe area.

The area is likely to be prone to mudslides for five years, so the Utah Department of Transportation will continuously monitor the burn scar during this time.

For more information on flash flood warnings, download the UDOT traffic app or visit the UDOT website.

EDITOR’S NOTE: Brian Head was hit with a surprise hail storm Wednesday afternoon just shortly before this article was published bringing more concerns about potential flooding.

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