A thunderous crash could be heard in the distance as a home collapsed and crumbled into the rushing waters below. Several people were standing at the edge of a hilltop in Santa Clara, Utah, watching their valley being destroyed before their very eyes. The torrent had eaten away the dirt of the riverbank and the foundation of the house. With no support, the home fell into the rapidly flowing river and was swept away downstream.
The Santa Clara/Virgin River flood in St. George, Utah, in 2005 was a complete disaster. Standing on the hill and watching the destruction below was an emotional experience for everyone. The trees and shrubs that once lined the small five-foot-wide river were now gone, uprooted and swept away by the violent and turbulent flow of water. What took years for nature to create, nature was able to destroy within seconds. Who would ever have guessed that the creek would swell to such width, viciously cutting away at the landscape?
The once tranquil stream, which could easily be crossed on foot or in a car, was now as wide as the length of a football field, and it was taking everything within its path. The speed of the river had once been five cubic feet per second, and now it was more than 6,500 cubic feet per second. In three days time, it had dug into the earth’s surface, carving away at the banks and creating ridges as high as thirty to forty feet. The torrent was digging at the earth at ten feet per hour like a plow and sweeping the red dirt and trees down the river into Arizona and Nevada. In fact, a man found his car thirty miles downstream from his home. It had crossed the border into Nevada.
Men worked feverishly to help the residents remove what they could from the homes that were threatened by the river, but there were those who escaped with only the clothes on their backs. About two hundred homes were damaged and twenty-five were completely destroyed. The experience of charity and compassion by the people was incredible. There was no prejudice of religion, race, culture, or status, just unconditional love and concern for everyone. Homes, clothes, and food were instantly found for the homeless.
Why was the flooding so bad that year? Six weeks of rain following a seven-year drought was the main reason. Built-up debris blocked the river channel and the only direction to go was outward, toward farmland and homes. Not only that, the heavy snow in the mountains seemed to be a blessing to this desert land, but the unusually warm January melted the snow too fast. With the constant rain during that month, the saturated ground couldn’t hold any more. The estimated damage was nearly two hundred million dollars.
Lost homes can be replaced, but the sad thing about this flood was the loss of irreplaceable and precious treasures that had no value to anyone but the owner, such as photos and memories of the past. Do you believe in miracles? Stories of hope always touch people, including me.
An elderly widow grabbed what she could with the help of her neighbors but wasn’t able to get everything. She lost her husband’s and her own Book of Remembrance, which had pictures of their family, their ancestors, and their biographies. All those memories were swept away in the flood. The following day after her home was gone, a knock came at the door where she was staying. A man was standing before her with the book in his hand. He said that he found it washed up on a tree stump near his home. Needless to say, she wept for joy. But that’s not all. The following day, her husband’s book was found, also.
The kindness of others was overwhelming for this little valley. Fundraisers were put together and schools collected money for the homeless. To me, this was a story of hope and love, a story of charity. As I included all this information in my novel, Anasazi Intrigue, I relived this disaster once again. You see… I’m from Washington County, St. George, Utah. This was my valley. This was my home. These were my people!