12 people killed, 1 missing after flash floods hit southern Utah

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SOUTHERN UTAH -- Now 12 people have been found dead and one remains missing after two families were swept away in a flash flood in Hildale Monday evening.

On Tuesday, crews continued to recover bodies killed in the flood. The two families were out for a ride to watch to flood waters when they got caught up in it, officials told FOX 13 News' Ben Winslow.

Three children were rescued and crews are still searching for one person.

"We just realize that this was an act of God and something that we can't control," said Hildale Mayor Philip Barlow. "We do the best we can."

Lt. Gov. Spencer Cox is in Hildale surveying the damage and the National Guard has been called in to help with recovery and clean up.

"It is unbelievable and something you never expect to see or have to deal with and the community is just really in shock, as we all are," Cox said.

About 650 search and rescue crews are out looking for those still missing.

The victims are from the Colorado City and Hildale area and range from mothers to small children, said Kevin Barlow, Colorado City assistant fire chief.

Barlow said a tremendous thunder cell came through the area while two cars were on Canyon St. at about 5:40 p.m. MT Monday.

Officials say a family in a van stopped in an area known to flood to watch the water when they got caught off guard and their vehicles were washed down stream.

The youngest victim is 4 years old and the three other victims were mothers.


Barlow said several agencies are trying to find the missing individuals, including a swift water rescue team.

Flash flooding in the Hildale area has overturned cars and damaged the area along State Route 59, according to the National Weather Service.

The flooding has impacted several areas in the Colorado City and Hildale communities including flooded homes and streets and power outages.

"We're continuing to have rainfall and a lot of moisture coming into the area, so we're going to try to do as much as we can in the windows we've got between these storms," Washington County Sheriff Cory Pulsipher said. "Safety is of utmost concern and that's where the focus is, is making sure we keep all of our volunteers safe."

The National Weather Service said the north fork of the Virgin River in Zion has risen from 42 cubic feet per second to 2,628 CFS in an hour. The east fork of the river near the town of Springdale has risen from 123 CFS to 3,692 CFS.

FOX 13 News viewer, Tabitha Corry, submitted photos of flooding on U.S. Highway 89. Corry wrote in an email that around 5 p.m. there were cars off to the side of road with water up to the doors.

She added several personnel from Hurricane responded to flash flooding crossing Highway 89 in numerous places.

The video below was submitted by Guy Timpson. It shows flood waters pushing a car down the road into a bridge.

Video below shows rescue crews helping a family get out of their vehicle stuck in flood waters. Video is courtesy of Chris and Lydia Wyler.

Senator Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, issued the following statement on the flooding in Washington County:

“Elaine and I send our prayers for the victims of the Hilldale Flooding and their families, and to the emergency responders as they continue to search for those missing. I am in contact local officials to offer my support, and I'm certain this tragedy will be met with courage and resilience by the citizens in the communities affected.”

Gov. Herbert issued this statement:

“I am heartbroken to hear of the recent tragedy in Washington County. The State of Utah has offered its full resources to the town of Hildale to aid with the search and rescue effort. The Governor’s Office and the Dept. of Public Safety are in close communication with local government and public safety officials in the affected area. Jeanette and I express our sincere condolences to the families of the victims during this difficult time. I offer my thanks to first responders, volunteers and other officials involved in the recovery effort.”


  • Bob the Wiser

    How is the national media NOT reporting that these towns are filled with subjugated, oppressed FLDS folks? That perhaps these women and children would have been able to escape if they weren’t ruled by archaic old men with direct lines to gawd? If they have lines to gawd, why did none of them get a warning to get out? Does gawd hate them, or perhaps could they be full of $h!t with regard to their religion? This story could be an opportunity to liberate women and children held hostage by their husband’s, their church, their indoctrination, their police forces and their judges. Get these people out from under the thumb of this oppressive religion. How is Utah making the fact that these are KNOWN FLDS strongholds where little girls are married off to their middle-aged uncles disappear from the headlines??

    • mandi

      Now is not the time for this. 8 people have died, families devastated. Let us grieve before you start bringing religion into this. Jesus!

      • Bob the Wiser

        Religion is irrevocably intertwined with this. That’s what happens when secular states allow thriving, illegal theocracies to flourish in their midst. These people could still be alive if they weren’t hidden away in some forsaken, remote corner of the desert so they could practice their weirdness without bringing negative attention to Utah’s tourism industry.

        I personally think it’s terribly tragic that these people are dead. Then again, I’m not religious. I don’t worship anyone’s idea of the being that created this reality and planned for these people to die horribly. If I DID worship such a cruel creature, I certainly couldn’t be justified in grieving because its plan played out. Could I?

        If you believe in and worship deity, you need to keep your mouth shut about being sad when it does what it planned to do.

  • SouthernUtahResident

    I was raised in this area. This didn’t happen because of the faith they practice. And you are showing your ignorance to the weather conditions that are in southern Utah by trying to blame religion. The weather in Southern Utah is such that any and I mean ANY storm will cause flooding. It is spectacular to watch. But, it can be deadly if you go to close. This kind of flooding hasn’t been seen in years. They were well within what they thought was safety. But again, when these washes flood sometimes there is no safety. Don’t blame the religion. It had nothing do with this tragedy. Instead can’t we at least feel a little sympathy for the lives this tragedy has impacted?

    • Bob the Wiser

      How is it a tragedy if it’s gawd’s will? Riddle me that. These people defined themselves by their ludicrous religion, they indoctrinate their children and keep their kids and wives prisoners in a different century. If they had appropriate access to technology, they could have been warned. They aren’t so worried about the corrupting influence of worldly goods that they didn’t have their kids loaded 16 thick in a van – but they can’t watch TV or listen to the radio or access the internet for weather reports? In an area where you just admitted that the weather can become deadly in an instant?

      How ridiculous is that?

      I hope outside agencies use this tragedy as an opportunity to get some people out of there.

      • SouthernUtahResident

        Again your ignorance betrays you. Everyone who has lived near these floods know to look at the sky see a storm and know instantly there will be a flood. No weather forecast needed. The sky goes black the washes will flood. Now before you reveal your ignorance again please study the weather down here maybe talk to a few residents that live near the river or the dry washes.

      • Bob the Wiser

        I grew up in the area. I know how it works. I also know that every darkening thunderstorm isn’t indicative of looming flash floods, dude. This is why modern meteorological technology is imperative to save lives with its predictive prowess. Predictive prowess that could have saved the lives of these women and children, if they were allowed to access it.

        They put their faith in their “direct line to gawd” husbands and lost their lives as a direct result. If not for their indoctrination by and membership in this known cult, they would be alive today. They would never have been residing in that theocracy of an illegal settlement if they weren’t part of a “religion” KNOWN to subjugate women and children.

        The state is culpable for these deaths simply by way of ignoring the abuses that go on within these communities and allowing them to continue.

        This tragedy is indicative of the fact that these people don’t have a clue what they’re talking about with regard to their knowledge of the truth of their religion. Yet because of their adherence to doctrine that any reasonable, non-indoctrinated person can see is utter rubbish, women and children lost their lives.

        I hope, as I previously stated, that this tragedy is used as a catalyst to removed forcibly ignorant women and children from an area you admitted is fraught with weather-related dangers. Particularly when they are denied access to the technology that could help keep them safe.

  • Bob Jones

    I guess it’s sad that my first thought watching the ladies climb out of the car was that they were obviously polygamists. Not that it matters one bit but it seemed pretty obvious. Hello, state of Utah. Avoiding the elephant in the room seems to be about par for the course.

  • pooramerica

    12 people died, one is still missing. 3 managed to climb to safety. Mothers were reaching for the young and were swept away with them.
    And none of you know who they are, who they follow or their beliefs yet.
    But you voice your persecution and dislike for Uncle Warren and his knowledge and religion.
    Big huge heart. ,?? Naa…

  • mandi

    I was born and raised in this cult. I know the ins and outs of this religion. You do not know these people, nor the religion. I’m not condoning it at all. I managed to get out when I was eighteen, but the point is, that these families have been devastated and ripped apart. Now is not the time to bring to attention their religion and beliefs. Your comments are very ignorant and disrespecful to these families.

  • Ann

    Could be that GOD is not happy with the way you live your lives. Multiple wives, marrying children. Yeah, maybe you made God made. And why would you drive to see flood waters. They are devastating….there are warnings to stay away. Again, could be God’s way of thinning your flock.

  • Hyrum_Justice

    Where were their husbands and fathers who were supposed to protect them? Oh… ya… I guess there’s not so many men around.

  • Pedro

    Great, when these videos and photos hit national news everyone will think all the citizens of Utah wear 1800’s clothing and funny hair styles.

  • mr. parker

    A flash flood, that happens all over the southwest, turns deadly and people want to blame the victims religion? What about the people killed in Zion in the slot canyon?
    I despise Warren Jeffs but people have the right to believe in God or not. If you don’t have faith, you don’t have it.
    This tragedy had nothing to do with religion or long skirts or polygamy.
    My sympathies to the families of those killed.

  • Catharine

    I’m curious to find out what blog system you have been working with?
    I’m experiencing some minor security problems with my latest blog and I would like to find something more safe.
    Do you have any solutions?

  • SmartPotato

    So abrupt and sad for the human animals and lives lost… meanwhile, stupid humans continue to just film and post to the internet, instead of getting their families to safety.

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