Burned Areas Contribute to Increased Risk of Flash Floods


Photo courtesy of the Manti-La Sal National Forest

US Forest Service Press Release

On Sunday, a number of large storms produced heavy rainfall across the Manti-La Sal National Forest. In some cases, these excessive rain events occurred on recent burn scars, creating large, dangerous flash floods and debris flows. The forest is working to clear roadways and culverts from up to 17 locations, including Ferron Canyon, Skyline Drive, Link Canyon and Lake Fork, among others.

The forest would like to remind the public to use caution when traveling and recreating on public lands, especially along waterways and in complex terrain.

“I understand the love the public has for camping near our creeks and streams, but steep slopes and narrow canyons can create increased risk from flash floods,” said Ryan Nehl, Manti-La Sal Forest supervisor.

When in these high-risk areas, there are some important points to consider. First, the downpour need not occur at your location to put you at risk. Downstream impacts may be felt dozens of miles away from the actual rainfall event.

Second, a significant portion of the flood may be composed of logs, rocks and other material, potentially intensifying the effect by creating log jams and debris piles. Third, even a relatively routine storm may cause severe flooding after a wildfire, and the potential for a more intense storm—one or two inches per hour—should not be discounted.

For these reasons, the Manti-La Sal National Forest would like to continue to highlight these flash flood safety tips:

  • Be aware that deadly flash flood waters can travel many miles from where they began.
  • Clear skies do not guarantee dry terrain.
  • Always let someone know your itinerary.
  • Don’t enter slot canyons and rugged terrain during stormy or wet weather.
  • Don’t attempt to cross floodwaters by vehicle or on foot.
  • Don’t camp along streams and washes if there is a threat of flooding.

Six inches of fast-moving water can knock someone off their feet and a water depth of two feet will cause most vehicles to float.

In addition, the forest would like to remind visitors to respect forest orders, closed gates and warning signs. The Manti-La Sal implements these measures to ensure public safety and to protect natural resources. For more information on these hazards, please visit our website at https://www.fs.usda.gov/alerts/mantilasal/alerts-notices

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