Utah in ‘uncharted territory’ with record-breaking snow, Cox warns

Apr 9, 2023, 4:00 PM

spencer cox is pictured, he just signed a bill about domestic violence lethality assessments...

Gov. Spencer Cox speaks during a press conference to announce a Driven to Assist community fundraiser and donation drive to benefit refugees fleeing Ukraine at a press conference at the Utah State Capitol on Thursday, March 3. Cox was among the leaders present at the announcement on Wednesday that Texas Instruments is expanding into Lehi.

This article is published through the Great Salt Lake Collaborative, a solutions journalism initiative that joins news, education and media organizations to help inform people about the plight of the Great Salt Lake—and what can be done to make a difference before it is too late. Read all of our stories at greatsaltlakenews.org.

ST. GEORGE, Utah — As snowstorms continue to hit Utah, Governor Spencer Cox warned counties to prepare for the potential for flooding.

“I’m grateful for the water, even though my prayers have changed a little bit,” the governor joked, referencing his call for Utahns to pray for rain to help the state in a mega-drought.

Speaking to a meeting of the Utah Association of Counties in St. George on Tuesday, the governor announced a historic amount of water in the snow.

“We just crossed the 29-inch threshold for water,” he said. “So, 26 [inches] the all time record and we’re now past 29. Looks like we’ll cross the 30-inch threshold by the end of this storm. We are literally in uncharted territory. We have no idea what to do with this much water, except we now pray it comes down slowly.”

On Monday, Utah’s Department of Natural Resources said that snowpack totals hit 201% of normal and it continues climbing. That is good news for reservoirs that need to recharge. The Great Salt Lake, which has shrunk to historic lows and presents an ecological catastrophe, has now risen three feet (but remains seven feet below what is considered a healthy level).

While the storms will not end Utah’s mega-drought, it is still good news. But state officials have new fears of flooding across the state. It will depend on how hot temperatures get once the storms pass and spring finally settles in.

“We’re hoping for a slow warm up over the next month or two,” Gov. Cox said in an interview with FOX 13 News. “If we can get temperatures in the 60s and 70s, we’ll be OK. Once we get in the 80s and 90s? That’s when we get really dicey when it comes to flooding. We are working ahead of time right now clearing out stream beds, we’re filling sandbags in Utah getting ready for whatever might come.”

Gov. Cox warned county leaders to prepare now. He said the state had plenty of sandbags.

“We have already ordered over a million sandbags, and we’ve been distributing those to you and we can get more out to you as needed,” he said.

Related: The Great Salt Lake Collaborative wins $20,000 prize in ‘Local that Works’ contest

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