Thursday, February 4, 2016

Recalling the Layton, Utah flood of 1984


    Minor flood damage at the mouth of Adams Canyon is reminiscent of the significant damage northward,  on  Valley View Drive in the spring of 1984.

By Lynn Arave

IN the spring of 1984, Layton City residents along Valley View Drive (east of Highway 89) suffered a disastrous mudslide that destroyed one home and damaged several others. The water, mud and debris caused more than $250,000 in damages (almost $600,000 in today’s dollar value), displaced seven families, prompted the temporary evacuation of almost 150 more and put mud 10 feet deep on Valley View Drive.
This all happened during the record flood years for Northern Utah – 1983-1984 – when there was heavy snowfall and a wet/cool spring. When it finally did warm up in mid-May, there was too much melting snow in the Wasatch Mountains.
It was May 17, 1984, 6:15 a.m. and Layton resident Tom Jacques fortunately spotted the mudflow coming down the mountainside, adding more rocks, mud, trees and brush as it moved, according to the Davis County Clipper on May 23, 1984.
Unlike area floods in the 1930s, this one didn’t come down the middle fork of Kays Creek. It came down what was known as “Lightning Canyon,” or “No Name Canyon.” This mud flow was 60 feet wide and five feet deep.
Jacques became a modern Paul Revere, of sorts, and yelled “Get out! Get out! It’s a mudslide” as loud as he could to all of his neighbors. Luckily no one was hurt.
Neighbors were the first to arrive with shovels, drinks, food and encouraging words. Next came members of the neighborhood emergency preparedness team under the direction of Bill Jaques. Many volunteers were from the local LDS Ward. The third group to help was organized through Layton City and Davis County emergency preparedness efforts. Some 500 people worked for three days to clean up the area.
Walt “Waldo” Miller, an affected Layton resident, later reflected on the lesson the mudslide taught:
“There’s not a trace of bitterness with any of our neighbors,” he told Doneta Gatherum of the Clipper. “We’ve all learned the big lesson. It’s our families and neighbors that count, not material possessions.”
The CBS news show, “On the Road,” with Charles Kuralt, spent five days filming in Layton after the disaster.
“Water’s gone: Cleanup’s not” was an Aug. 8, 1984 headline in the Davis County Clipper that outlined the long term repair and preventative efforts.
Secondary water was cut off to the area for most of the summer. Besides the damage to homes, considerable landscaping needed to be redone.
A flood channel and debris basin were later added to hopefully prevent a similar disaster in the future.
Sadly, there was no federal relief money available to those families affected and no homeowner insurance covered mudslide damage either. A special citizen committee organized a trust fund to help those needing the most financial assistance.
-Later, there were landslides in 1998 on Sunset Drive and again in 2001 on Heather Drive within Layton City’s boundaries, further highlighting a vulnerability to nature and a need to always be as prepared as possible.

(Sources: Davis County Clipper, Ogden Standard-Examiner. Originally published in the Layton City newsletter.)



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