Hogle Zoo conducts first-ever flood drill

Apr 13, 2023, 5:30 PM

hogle zoo lion pictured...

A lion from Utah's Hogle Zoo is pictured. (Utah's Hogle Zoo)

(Utah's Hogle Zoo)

SALT LAKE CITY — With record snow and heat, comes runoff down Emigration Creek which runs besides and underneath Hogle Zoo. What is the zoo doing about keeping its animal occupants safe from a possible flood? 

Joining Dave Noriega & Debbie Dujanovic (D2) is Jeff Landry, who is Hogle Zoo’s risk manager. 

Both the mayors of Salt Lake City and Salt Lake County have issued states of emergency as of Thursday.

Due to record-breaking snow and associated spring runoff, here are the areas in Salt Lake County at the highest risk of flooding:

  • Red Butte Creek
  • Emigration Creek
  • Big Cottonwood Creek
  • Little Cottonwood Creek
  • Millcreek

“Salt Lake County Mayor Jenny Wilson is issuing an emergency order about flooding in the Sugarhouse area at 17th South and 15th East which, just for context is kind of close, a little too close for comfort to the Hogle Zoo,” Debbie said.


Keeping an eye on the creek

“We’ve been actually preparing for potential of a flood, even though it’s not really likely . . . but we’ve been preparing for over a month,” he said. “There’s no thought at all right now of evacuation of the zoo. Matter of fact, we’re open. Come on up and enjoy the snow that just started falling,” Landry said.

He said for the first time in its history, Hogle Zoo staged a planned full-scale flood drill Wednesday with all staff on deck. 

With Emigration Creek rising, Landry said an infrared camera has been mounted atop a railway trestle, which is part of the Zoofari Express Train Ride. 

“I don’t know if you’ve ever ridden on the train before, but we mounted a infrared camera on that, pointed to the culvert that goes underneath the zoo — a 60-inch culvert. So we have 24-hour-a-day coverage of that,” Landry said.

He added jersey barriers have been put up to channel water away from animal enclosures.

“It’s one of those things where it’s better to have it ahead of time then to try to scramble and doing it when you need to do it quickly.”

How do you evacuate an elephant from a zoo flood?

“Is there ever a situation where you do need to evacuate the animals? Who draws the short straw and has to evacuate the lions?” Dave asked.

“Yeah, hopefully it’s not me, but you actually do have to have plans,” Landry said.

He said the zoo’s response to flooding is twofold: shelter in place or ship the zoo animals to other zoos.

“To move an elephant is a big thing. But their building is made basically — it’s like a bomb shelter so it’s pretty much immune to anything.

“If there were a “cataclysmic thing, like we had a major earthquake in Salt Lake City, we do have contact information from every zoo within five  — actually, I think up to 600 miles away,” Laundry said.

He said Hogle Zoo is prepared for any flooding event.

“We have absolutely no concern about that with the flood potential of Emigration Creek. We would just re-canalize the creek and then have it go down the backside of the zoo.”

Related reading:

Salt Lake County mayor issues state of emergency after spring runoff


Dave & Dujanovic can be heard weekdays from 9 a.m. to noon. on KSL NewsRadio. Users can find the show on the KSL NewsRadio website and app, as well as Apple Podcasts and Google Play. 

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Hogle Zoo conducts first-ever flood drill