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Moab residents say inadequate infrastructure flooded homes in recent storms



Moab residents say inadequate infrastructure flooded homes in recent storms

In the wake of recent flash floods, Moab residents are grappling with considerable damage to their homes and businesses.

After a lightning strike caused a tree to crash through their house on June 21, Tammie Nakai Nez and Brandon Nez experienced severe damage to their trailer home with about a foot of standing water getting in.

“We are very fortunate that we are still alive,” Tammie said. “… There is a lot of damage that still needs to be worked on – it’s not just the roof.

The impact of the fallen tree also caused their trailer, which they’ve been in for about 20 years, to sink into its foundation, creating holes and cracks throughout the living space. All of the damages made their home unlivable for five days.

Some of the damaged areas within the kitchen and bedroom have been reconstructed temporarily until they have enough money to make full repairs.

It’s going to be a long journey to get their home back to normal, but support from Brandon’s brother and other family has helped.

“[They] feel for us … it was a good feeling to know that we’re actually going down the right path of recovering from this trauma that we had, as well as recovering our home,” Tammie said.

The couple has also received some help with repairs and mitigating the damages from Red Cross, Moab Solutions and Simbeck and Associates, Inc. as well as a GoFundMe they’ve started.

HMK damage

Helen M. Knight Elementary School also sustained extensive damage from the second of the recent storms, which fell on June 27, primarily due to hail.

“The hail cracked the roof membrane, and it piled up against the drain, so water wasn’t able to go down or drain off the roof, so it went into the roof and there’s thousands of cracks,” said Dr. Mike McFalls, Grand County School District’s new superintendent.

This led to extensive flooding throughout the school, including damage to ceiling tiles, the walls and some technology and significant amounts of water that got into the cafeteria and gym.

On June 28, the school started tearing out ceiling and carpet tiles and hired a company to bring in fans and dehumidifiers to dry out the building.

“We’re optimistically hopeful that we should be able to be back in before school starts, but we have pretty extensive damage throughout the school,” McFalls said.

He added that they’re working on a plan b if they’re not able to make the repairs in time. The school is insured so they’ll walk through that process as soon as possible.

Potential inadequate stormwater infrastructure

Marcia Ewell has lived in her 1928 home for decades, but recent storms have brought unprecedented flooding, including about two feet of water in her basement.

Despite being situated in a relatively high area within the 500-year floodplain and close to the 1,000-year floodplain, Ewell’s home has experienced repeated flooding due to what she describes as “inadequate stormwater infrastructure”.

“I’m a victim of the city’s lack of proper-sized stormwater drains and culverts and the lack of maintenance to the existing way-undersized culvert that is filled with mud and debris clogging up during these events,” she said.

She explained that since the city’s stormwater infrastructure upgrade that occurred 20 years ago, she has experienced both minor and major flooding with even small rain events.

“I get all the runoff from 191 at 500 West/Denny’s and south to Moenkopi and McGill, and then everything to the east of those areas all the way to the slickrock cliffs and beyond up into the La Sal drainage that flows my way,” she said.

Two feet of flood got into Marcia Ewell’s home after the two recent floods in Moab. Photo by Marcia Ewell

Ewell’s basement is dry now after obtaining a large sump pump and setting up fans, but the repeated flooding has taken a toll. She said the July 2021 flood brought water within three-fourths-inch of the threshold to her door.

She added that the Moab City Engineer told her at the time that he thought it was a rare event and said there were new culverts that would have diverted the water away from her that were shut down. Her understanding now is that the city doesn’t have the proper equipment or workforce to clean up the culvert near her house and might have to hire a contractor.

She said that she and the city have the same goals – to prevent damage from storm events and she’s optimistic that these recent flood events will get the “city in action.”

Additionally, she suggested starting a grassroots movement to install rain gardens and catch basins throughout Moab, which could help slow the flow of water and reduce the severity of flooding.

“We start up high and work our way down, installing berms and terracing to make rain gardens where flood water and roof gutter spouts go, and we slow the speed of the water and lessen the impact of the wall of water as it moves through Moab,” Ewell said.

This story was first published by The Times-Independent.

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