Near the Utah-Arizona border a van and SUV carrying three women and 13 children sat near the widening stream, waiting for the water to recede so they could cross back to their homes in a small, polygamous town. However in an instant, flood waters engulfed them and the two vehicles were sucked downstream.
Only three children survived and twelve of the 16 adults are dead, with one missing. Downstream, people rushed to where the vehicles came to a stop. At Zion National Park, the same storm system sent flash floods barreling through a narrow slot canyon, killing four people and leaving three others missing.
The victims who came from California and Nevada were in their 40s and 50s. Park spokeswoman Holly Baker said they began their hike before officials closed the canyons that evening because of flood warnings.
The height of the storm lasted about 30 minutes, pouring 1½ inches of rain into a desert-like landscape with little vegetation and steep slopes. Residents are calling it the worst flood in memory for the sister towns of Hildale, Utah, and Colorado City, Arizona, which is home base for Warren Jeff’s polygamous sect.
Lorin Holm, who called the storm the heaviest in the 58 years he’s lived in the community said the torrent was so fast, “it was taking concrete pillars and just throwing them down, just moving them like plastic.” Searches are expected to resume Wednesday in both Hildale, for the final unaccounted for person, and in Zion for the missing three hikers.
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