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Cooler air on tap as flood threat abates

Published June 29, 2011 2:00 pm

Weather • Flood threat eases in northern counties, but south is at risk of wildfires.
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A summer squall blew through parts of Utah on Wednesday, punctuating the skies with lightning and pelting some areas with heavy rain.

A high wind warning was issued through 9 p.m. Tuesday for the Salt Lake and Tooele valleys, portions of central Utah and southwestern Utah. Two flights heading to Salt Lake — one owned by Delta, the other by Frontier — were diverted to Ogden's airport because of thunderstorms and high winds Wednesday afternoon. The flights were expected to refuel there and then continue to the Salt Lake City International Airport.

Dave Korzep, superintendant of airport operations, said outgoing flights were halted briefly in the afternoon until the storm passed.

The thunderstorms were expected to move out by midday Thursday, making way for sunny skies and cooler temperatures in the afternoon. The high in Salt Lake City should be about 80 degrees. St. George will cool down to the mid-90s.

The National Weather Service left in place flood warnings for Cache County's Logan River and Spring Creek; the Weber River near Oakley; and the Duchesne River in the eastern part of the state. But the threat of major damage from snowmelt was petering out.

"We're on the downhill side of our flood threats," said National Weather Service hydrologist Brian McInerny in his last flood briefing of the snowmelt season. But the danger of fast-moving, cold water will continue through the holiday weekend, he cautioned.

"Please watch your kids, watch your pets," he said. "Please use good judgment."

Residents of Providence, where sandbag barriers had been reinforced late Tuesday against an expected overnight peak flow at Spring Creek, were breathing easier Wednesday morning. Two families that had evacuated their homes were able to return.

"Last night went very well," said Randy Eck, public works director for Providence. "The anticipated [flooding] levels were not reached overnight. I don't know why, but I'm not going to ask, either. I'm just very thankful."

The main road leading into the town also survived the night. Erosion remained a concern, but little additional damage had occurred to the road by Wednesday, Eck said.

In southern Utah, "red flag" wildfire warnings were in place once more for portions of Washington County, as well as the south central environs of Milford, Zion National Park, Bryce Canyon, Escalante and Moab, Monticello, Bluff and Blanding in southeastern Utah.

Just across the Utah-Arizona border near Fredonia, Southern Paiute tribal firefighters, Bureau of Land Management and Forest Service crews declared the 650-acre Six Mile wildfire fully contained Tuesday night. The blaze was determined to be human-caused, though it remained under investigation Wednesday, said Jordan Ellis, spokesman for the Color Country Interagency Fire Center.

The fire danger remained high, and much of the western half of Utah, from north to south, was under a high wind warning Wednesday as well, with winds in the 35-40 mph range, gusting to 60 mph.

Anne Wilson contributed to this report. remims@sltrib.com






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