Officials warn of flash flooding in national parks, here’s what to look out for

Jul 27, 2023, 11:00 AM

SALT LAKE CITY -- The National Weather Service is warning national park visitors of possible flash ...

Buckskin Gulch, located in Kane County, has been the site of four fatalities in recent weeks due to flash floods. Photo credit: Steven Law

SALT LAKE CITY — The National Weather Service is warning national park visitors of possible flash flooding this week.   

National parks are a hot spot for nature lovers, especially in the summer months. However, this has led to tragedies when people arrive unprepared for sudden weather changes. Precipitation in any area of the park poses a threat to all areas. 

NWS Meteorologist Michael Wessler said in order to stay safe, we have to be proactive. 


Before you go

Wessler’s first piece of advice was to get the forecasts. The National Weather Service updates its forecasts for precipitation in slot canyons for this reason. 

Wessler also advised people to make responsible choices when planning their time outdoors.

“You may not see these showers or thunderstorms overhead that have the potential to cause flash flooding,” he said. “They could be miles away from you at the head of the basin and that water is going to come cascading down.”

How much precipitation can cause flash flooding?

These alerts don’t mean people should retreat at the first sight of rain. Wessler said the forecasts predict the likelihood of a flash flood in your area. 

The forecasts use words like not expected, possible, probable and expected to measure the hazard level. 

“That will guide you towards those days that are at the lowest risk,” he said. “Obviously being out and recreating in the outdoors is never zero risk.”

Though there is never zero risk, Wessler said there are common ways to reduce it. 

“Getting an early start on those sunny clear days is extremely important,” he explained. “A lot of times our convection really gets triggered by the warm summer afternoons.”

Wessler said although parks don’t inform visitors of possible flooding, rangers are a source for those concerned. They know their terrain and are usually keeping an eye on the forecasts. A quick chat with a ranger can point you in the right direction. 


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Officials warn of flash flooding in national parks, here’s what to look out for