How Recent Severe Weather is Reshaping Travel in Utah

Soutern Utah Thunderstorm

Navigating Unpredictable Weather in Utah's Iconic Landscapes

This past week, many of Utah's iconic landscapes, from the rugged red rocks of Moab to the vast waters of Lake Powell, faced unprecedented weather challenges some of which have to be seen to be believed.

Travelers and locals alike witnessed an extraordinary mix of rain, flooding and hail that disrupted travel plans, damaged property and dramatically illustrated the power of nature.  Here is a closer examination of the impact across various regions along with advice for those visiting these areas not only soon but any time.

To See A Video of Moab's Raging Mill Creek, Click Here

Moab’s Historic Flooding

I decline to use the term “100-year event” as some people have to describe these conditions as these alarmist, agenda-driven headlines are becoming a daily event.  But then, so are these events.

Utah’s slick-rock town of Moab confronted severe flooding this past week as a result of the swelling Colorado River and its tributaries including Mill Creek flowing through Moab.  It inundated roads and disrupted ... only the videos can do it justice ... the serene beauty of this desert town.

Look At This Moab Street Turn Into A River

Renowned worldwide for its outdoor activities, Moab saw temporary closures of popular hiking trails and campsites.  Cleanup efforts are ongoing. 

Roads such as sections of Highway 191 were closed to facilitate these operations. This incident serves as a stark reminder of the western desert's capacity for sudden and severe weather shifts.

Road Closures on Highway 163

The situation was similarly grim north of Mexican Hat where the usually scenic Highway 163 was overtaken by floodwaters.  This major artery, often traveled for its views enroute to Monument Valley, was rendered impassable necessitating major detours and complicating travel plans significantly. 

Damage in this remote area is still being assessed emphasizing the need for real-time weather updates for anyone traveling in the region.

This Is What A Flash Flood In The Desert Looks Like

Lake Powell’s Hailstorm

At Lake Powell, visitors experienced a completely unexpected hailstorm that produced golf-ball-sized hailstones.  It caused extensive property damage and even some reported injuries.  The storm caught many off guard. 

It affected both water-based activities and the broader community around this popular recreational area.  Such incidents underscore the unpredictable nature of weather in this region particularly during the transitional seasons like we’re in now.

Lake Powell's Amazing Hailstorm

Tips for Safe Travel in Utah’s Monsoon Season

Traveling through Utah, especially during “monsoon” season, demands some extra preparation and even caution. Consider these strategies to ensure a safe and enjoyable trip:

  • Regular Weather Updates:  Stay updated with the latest weather forecasts. Conditions can and will change seemingly without warning.  Being informed can help you make safe travel decisions.
  • Prepare for Unexpected Delays:  It is not always an option but, if possible, try to have alternative routes planned.  Always expect potential delays when traveling in these areas.  Road closures can happen suddenly and flexibility in your travel itinerary can make a significant difference.
  • Emergency Supplies:  Equip your vehicle with essential emergency supplies including water, non-perishable food, a first aid kit and warm clothing.
  • Check Road Status Frequently:  Utilize resources like the Utah Department of Transportation website for the latest information on road conditions.
  • Slot Canyons:  Especially be careful when planning to venture into the many slot canyons of central and southern Utah.  Flash floods are common and often unexpected.    

The recent extreme weather in Utah is a powerful reminder of nature’s unpredictability. These events not only impact those caught in the storms but also offer a crucial lesson for all travelers - the importance of preparation.

Always respect the natural … and some say unnatural … forces at play not only in these stunning landscapes, but anywhere you happen to travel.

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