On Sept. 14, a number of flash floods raced through Utah, leaving at least 20 people dead in their wake.
The worst of that day’s floods occurred along the Arizona-Utah border. What caused them? Hurricane Linda. Or, rather, the remnants of Hurricane Linda.
That storm, which formed off the off the southwest coast of Mexico on Sept. 6, never actually made landfall in the US. Also, it rapidly weakened after reaching peak intensity – as a Category 3 hurricane -- on Sept. 8.
Still, Linda was strong enough to bring above-average rainfall to parts of Arizona, California, Utah, and a number of other states over the next few days and weeks.
Hildale Utah Flood
The deadliest of the floods caused by all of that rainfall hit the sister towns of Hildale, Utah, and Colorado City, Arizona, on the evening of Sept. 14.
According to AccuWeather.com, earlier that day between one and three inches of rain fell in the mountains to the north of Hildale during two separate storms.
The first storm raised the level of nearby Short Creek almost three-and-a-half feet in just 19 minutes, according to weather.com. A couple of hours later, the second storm raised it nearly five-and-a-half feet.
About 30 minutes after the second storm rolled through the area, a flash flood surprised the drivers of two vehicles carrying three adults and 13 children. The raging waters — which one onlooker described as being 300- to 400-feet-wide -- swept away both cars in seconds.
By the time they came to rest a quarter-mile away, 12 of the 16 people involved were dead, and one was missing. Only three survived, all children.
Flash Flood Factors
How could an inch or two of rain produce so much death and destruction? Pete Wilensky, a National Weather Service meteorologist, told weather.com after the event that the one-two punch of these storms had a lot to do with it.
“You put an inch or so of rain on top of [rivers already on the rise] in a short period of time,” he said, and flooding is going to be a distinct possibility.
The fact that the stream systems in the southwest US aren’t as well developed as they are in wetter regions also likely played a role, offered Elliot Abrams, chief meteorologist at AccuWeather.com. "That factor and the steep terrain likely contributed to the deadly flash flood.”
Brian McInerney, a hydrologist with the National Weather Service, added (via The Guardian) that what happened in Hildale was “like a bucket of water being poured onto a rock.”
Zion National Park Flood
The other tragedy related to these storms happened about 20 miles north of Hildale, in Zion National Park.
Just over a half-inch of rain fell in the Utah park’s Keyhole Canyon between 4:30 and 5:30 pm on Sept. 14. Within 15 minutes, the nearby fork of the Virgin River’s flow increased from 55 cubic feet per second to 2,630 cubic feet per second, according to the Los Angeles Times.
The resulting rush of water seemingly caught a group of seven hikers off guard and swept them to their deaths.
Due to its death toll, this flood is now considered one of the worst weather-related disasters ever to hit a US national park.
Car Insurance and Flood Damage
Although both of these stories focus on the human cost of these freak floods, they resulted in other costs as well.
Take the flooding in Hildale. The same “wall of water” that killed 13 of that town’s residents also damaged or destroyed a number of its dwellings and other buildings, not to mention vehicles.
The good news for car owners in any part of the US who find themselves in a similar situation: if you have comprehensive auto insurance, it will cover flood-related damage. What if you only carry liability or collision coverage? You’ll likely have to pay out of your own pocket to repair or replace your vehicle.
Standard Homeowners Insurance Doesn’t Cover Flooding
There’s also some bad news related to flood damage and destruction costs, unfortunately. Specifically, most forms of homeowners -- or renters -- insurance policies don’t cover it.
Thankfully, it’s easy enough to buy flood insurance. The federal government’s National Flood Insurance Program is one readily available source of these kinds of policies. Eighty or so private insurers that have partnered with the NFIP also sell them.
For more information on flood insurance, read our article “What You Need to Know About Flood Insurance.”
And if you’re having a hard time figuring how to purchase a flood insurance policy, let QuoteWizard help you out. We can put you in touch with multiple insurance companies so you can get the best rate possible for the coverage that’s right for you.