Moab community left cleaning up after major flooding

Published: Aug. 24, 2022 at 7:35 PM MDT
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MOAB, Utah (KKCO) - Five days after a summer rainstorm hit Moab, Utah, mud, dust, and debris are still scattered through the neighborhoods and streets.

On Saturday, Aug. 20, a nighttime rainstorm dumped enough water on Moab to flood the streets, turning the streets into urban rivers. Many residents said the storm came out of nowhere.

“This was the next level, this was apocalyptical,” said Luis Nieves, who manages the Spitfire Smokehouse Bar and Taps. “It was pretty impressive the way that water was coming from everywhere.” Nieves said it isn’t uncommon for Moab to see rain, but this storm was different. He said the restaurant was packed full of people that night when the rain hit.

“Suddenly somebody just said water was coming through the door and we’re just looked, and we were in like two feet water,” said Nieves. “It was pretty much a river. There was no way we could get out. We were surrounded by water.”

Nieves said water had flowed like a river down the streets on either side of the restaurant. Due to the fact the front doors were closed, he said not much water made it inside the main part of the restaurant, but the outdoor dining patio had several inches of mud.

The flooding broke the main water line near the restaurant, and it’s been without drinking water ever since. Nieves said crews told them it would be at least until Thursday, Aug. 25 before they get the water back on and when they do, they’ll have to boil their drinking water for a while.

Just a few blocks away from the Spitfire Smokehouse, Stosh Richardson held up in the Paddle Moab building. He said a similar scene played out in front of the parking lot to the business.

“The whole street next to us turned into a river,” said Richardson. “We kind of just saw it like coming and we’re like, like prepare for impact.”

Richardson said the business was fortunate that no water even made it into the parking lot, let alone the building, but he acknowledges not everyone was so fortunate.

“What happened to the streets and the creeks and just the sheer damage of it this year was unrivaled in my experience here,” said Richardson.

In the days following the flood though, the economic impact is starting to sink in. Nieves and Richardson said they rely almost exclusively on tourist dollars and already they’re noticing the impact.

“I’ve been getting calls off the chains about people who are wondering if it’s still safe to come to Moab and if our business is still operating,” said Richardson. “We have like an overnight Labyrinth Canyon trip that leaves in a few days and every single person on that trip has now called me and been like, is it safe?”

Through all the chaos though, Richardson and Nieves both said how amazing the community has been at getting the cleanup going.

“All the kids who had study hall were given permission to leave school so that they could go help,” said Richardson. “Scrape mud off of all the driveways, and all the parking lots and all that stuff.”

“I’ve never seen that before honestly,” said Nieves. “This is the first time that I’ve see it and no questions asked. They just jumped with their shovels, even bare hands and just start helping.”

Utah’s governor Spencer Cox has since declared a state of emergency to help the communities that were hit by the flooding.

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