During this special episode of "Conversations with Kaufusi", I sit down with Public Works Director Dave Decker to talk about potential flooding. Press play to listen to the frequently asked questions I've received from residents and learn what Provo is doing to prepare and what the public can do to help.
1. Everyone is wondering about the potential flooding this year with the record snowpack we have received. What has the city been doing to prepare for flooding?
A: Staff has been meeting weekly to plan and prepare for flooding since February. Public Works, Energy and Parks crews are working to clear debris from the Provo River, as well as clearing runoff materials that could potentially clog our storm drain system. Debris will continue to flow down the river and will need to be cleaned as it comes. We have secured sandbags and identified high risk areas and have plans in place of where to divert potential flood waters.
2. What different factors play into possible flooding?
A: There are various different factors that play into the potential for flooding. The amount snow in the mountains is a big factor the other factor is the weather and how quickly the snow melts. If the snow melts all at once that will result in large amounts of water coming down into the valley.
3. What areas of the city are at the highest risk of potential flooding?
A: All of the water from spring runoff flows down into Provo City in a few places. A lot of water will make its way into the Provo River as the snow melts. The other area where the runoff will happen is our frontal canyons: Rock Canyon, Slate Canyon, and Little Rock Canyon. Localized flooding may occur due to saturated soils. Property owners should look at their own properties and address low areas that may cause flooding to buildings.
4. Are sandbags available to residents?
A: Yes, residents can pick up a bundle of 25 sandbags at the Public Works building. They will need to bring their own shovels to fill the bags with sand. Sand has been placed near the compost yard. Sandbags will deteriorate over time and it is best to store them inside until needed.
5. What's the best thing residents can do to minimize the potential for flooding around their home?
A: The best thing residents can do is to clear the storm drains and gutters around their home. Remove any yard waste or garbage and throw it in your bin. City crews are focused on the highest risk areas and it would be difficult for them to clean every gutter before spring runoff. Residents should also protect the lower levels of your home such as window wells or other entries. If you have a sump pump make sure it is working properly. The best time to clear it is now before the rain and spring runoff.
6. What new infrastructure is in place to help with flooding?
A: We have installed detention basins at Rock and Slate Canyons. We have also improved the storm drain systems in those areas to help carry some of the potential flood waters away.
7. How will the city communicate with residents if flooding does occur?
A: The city will communicate through their social media channels and emails to residents. However, one of the best ways to get information quickly is to sign up for our everbridge notification system. For email updates visit provocity.info/signup and for Everbridge alerts visit alerts.utahcounty.gov.
8. Will the city need volunteers if flooding happens and how will they be able to help?
A: Right now, we are working with volunteer organizations to come and fill sandbags. If flooding does occur we will need additional help from volunteers to place sandbags. Check the city’s social media channels for future volunteer opportunities.
9. The snow is bringing a lot of critical water that we need as a state. How will this water help us? And what will happen to the excess water?
A: There is a large quantity of extra water that nature is providing to us this year, more than can be stored in any surface water reservoirs.For long-term water management strategies, it is important to take advantage of this extra water and store it for future years of need.Provo has several ASR (Aquifer Storage and Recovery) projects operating and we have been draining much of the Provo-owned surface water and placing it in the ground to improve the aquifer levels.This will allow Provo to use it in future years of drought and store this extra water in a location where it will not evaporate and is lost.Unfortunately, even with these projects, much of this extra water is simply going to Utah Lake where it will just evaporate.We understand some water is certainly needed in Utah Lake to meet water rights and environmental needs.However, nature is providing far more water this spring than these needs demand and, overall, we are concerned the water community is missing out on an excellent chance to store this extra water for coming years of drought.Provo is promoting several more aggressive ASR projects to replenish the ground water aquifer and take advantage of the excellent water years like the one we are experiencing.
10. What other cautions would you want residents to know about?
A: It’s important to maintain a safe distance from the river and flood waters. High flowing water is extremely dangerous and we don’t want to see anyone get swept away.