Winter flooding comes from iced river
CIRCLEVILLE - Extreme cold temperatures earlier in December have caused the Sevier River to freeze, and now spill its banks, flooding some areas in and around Circleville.
Two weeks ago, the rising river water began to create problems for some residents, displacing one family from their home, and causing damage to belongings for at least one other.
The diverted drainage has also spilled out onto crops, potentially damaging local farmers' fields.
"Whenever it gets below zero, that river freezes over and backs up," said Piute County Sheriff Marty Gleave. "Where it backs up, depends on where it freezes over. We haven't had a hard freeze that's backed it up like this in a long time."
Gleave said the channel of the Sevier River through Circleville is fairly level, which causes it to flow slowly through that valley. He said it's not uncommon for the frozen river to breach its banks and run out onto some fields.
"It hasn't backed up into houses like this since 1982," Gleave said. He said the houses that are being affected weren't around then, and have been lucky up to this point not to find themselves in the path of the overflow.
According to Gleave, residents Richard and Jo Vigil were displaced from their home after the flooding filled their septic tank, making the home uninhabitable for the time being. He said Rick Sides, who lives in that same neighborhood, reported damage to some equipment, but said a berm was able to be built around the northern end of Sides' residence to alleviate additional destruction.
"Unfortunately, the damage to [the Vigil's] home is done," Gleave said. "We're continuing to work to try to prevent any further problems."
Gleave said access to one road, 470 North, from U.S. Highway 89 also had to be shut down due to the flooding. He said up to a foot of water running over the roadway quickly turned into a treacherous stretch of ice.
"Right now, we're just waiting for things to thaw out a little," Gleave said. "All we can do, is let Mother Nature take her course."
Losses to crops located along the river's path that have been flooded over and frozen won't become evident until springtime, according to Gleave. He said there are some growers who are looking at some serious loss, however.
Amidst all of the destruction, Gleave said the silver lining is the spillage hasn't flowed toward the center of town.
"It is going the right direction for the most part," Gleave said. "If it were to block and start going the other way, we'd really be hurting."