Helper, County declare disaster
Helper City and Carbon County declared a state of local emergency Wednesday and are asking for state disaster aid in the wake of severe flooding Monday night and Tuesday morning.
In Helper, cloudbursts brought torrents of mud and debris down from the cliffs north and east of town. The surge hit a high water mark of about ten feet at the Janet Street underpass. About two dozen homes had flooded basements, with at least one basement reportedly inundated from floor to ceiling.
A debris flow also surged downhill from Kenilworth into Spring Glen. County-wide, about 70 homes were flooded or damaged, according to a Sheriff's Department news release.
Helper Councilman Jason Llewelyn, who is also the county's Director of Homeland Security, said that engineers and insurance adjusters were still assessing damage to private property and public infrastructure. The dollar cost will be in the millions, but there is no telling exactly how high it will go at this early stage, he explained.
"We expect the agricultural loss to be huge," Llewelyn said, noting that one diversion dam south of Helper was destroyed and will cost about $1 million to replace.
Silt and water also hit the Carbon County golf course, piling mud over several greens and fairways. The course was closed Wednesday as teams tried to clear the mud with hand shovels to spare the grass.
Course pro Tom King said he hoped the links would be open Thursday, but advised golfers to call in advance to make sure.
In Helper, Main Street was reopened by city workers and volunteers who managed to clear several blocks of ankle-deep mud. Silver Spur Construction, the company doing infrastructure rebuilding on the west side of town, halted work and sent workers and equipment to Helper with the cleanup Tuesday.
By Wednesday, volunteers were showing up in droves to help home owners dig out. Jessica Andreason, whose own Main Street home had been flooded was acting as an ad hoc coordinator for the effort.
She estimated that as many as 200 volunteers had shown up during the day.
One of them, Bob Tackleberry, came down from Orem to lend a hand. It was his day off. "Otherwise I'd just be home watching TV," he explained.
Storm drainage is a major part of Helper's city-wide infrastructure rebuilding project. In addition to upgrading culinary water and sewer systems, engineers have also planned improvements to the storm water runoff system.
Helper Councilman Chris Pugliese noted that the infrastructure project was relatively undamaged. Those parts that had been completed held up as planned. "Two years from now, this won't happen," he said, looking at the flooded streets Tuesday morning. "That is why we are doing what we are doing."
Persons who need emergency city assistance can call 472-HELP.
Former Helper Mayor Dean Armstrong commented that this is the time for a thorough "postmortem" of the event, so engineers and city planners can determine problem areas and devise solutions that can be incorporated into the ongoing infrastructure project.
Meanwhile, every last bit of volunteer labor and every shovelful of mud removed from the streets is going to be appreciated by more than the people of Helper.
Next week is the annual Helper Arts and Music Festival, which draws artists and visitors from across the region to downtown Helper.
While the festival booths and venues don't extend much into the north end of Main Street, parking and pedestrian access do.