With recent rain, burn scars raise concern for flash flooding in Utah

Aug 2, 2022, 2:07 PM

Overflowing rivers and streams can cause a lot of roadway problems but UDOT's John Gleason says his...

Heavy snow can be concerning for areas near a burn scar. (Wayne County Sheriff's Office)

(Wayne County Sheriff's Office)

SALT LAKE CITY — Some areas of northern Utah were hit by strong rainstorms on Monday night, causing flooding concerns for those who live near a burn scar. A burn scar is an area of land that’s been burned by a previous wildfire.

The National Weather Service says it takes less rainfall to create a flash flood in such areas. 

Burn scars are at particular risk of flash flooding because there is a lack of vegetation that typically both absorbs and slows the rainfall. Furthermore, depending on how hot the wildfire was and how long it burned, the composition of the soil can be changed so it does not absorb water. 

And burn scars can take years before they stop being a threat to the people who live near them.

“It takes several years for these landscapes to rehabilitate. We’re actually monitoring burn scars all the way back, in some cases, five years,” said Glen Merril, a hydrologist with the National Weather Service Office in Salt Lake.

If the burn scar is on steep terrain, Merril said that also increases the chance of a flash flood.

Monday in Stockton, Utah, sandbags were passed out to residents because of the flash flood threat, a threat made worse by the burn scar left by the Jacob City fire that burned over 4-thousand acres. 

“The concern is we’re going to get heavy rainfall up the canyon in some of the burn scars,” said Stockton Fire Chief Justin Huffman, “and make that mud mobile, kind of pick up steam as it comes and hits these houses.”

Huffman said several homes in Stockton flooded last August, and that flooding in the area this summer would be a lot worse because of a new burn scar.  

Waverly Golden contributed to this article. 


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With recent rain, burn scars raise concern for flash flooding in Utah