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Alpine braces for flooding after fire

ALPINE, Utah (ABC4 Utah) - Homes and neighborhoods across the state are at high risk for flooding this weekend, but especially areas already devastated by wildfires.

ALPINE, Utah (ABC4 Utah) - Homes and neighborhoods across the state are at high risk for flooding this weekend, but especially areas already devastated by wildfires.Homes and neighborhoods across the state are at high risk for flooding this weekend, but especially areas already devastated by wildfires.

"The National Forest Service calls us every time they see a big thundercloud up here," said Rich Nelson, an Alpine City Administrator. "They say 'hey, get prepared, get ready.'"

That is exactly what Nelson and the city of Alpine did.

“We put in a system so the water and mud would run through the channels,” said Nelson.

Using a grant from the federal government, Alpine was able to put in detention basins and a series of canals to divert flood water or mud slides from hitting homes.

The Quail Fire barely missed homes in the Box Elder neighborhood last year, but all of the trees and shrubbery on the mountain are gone.

“So when the water comes in [the ground] gets saturated and run downs, brings the rocks and you have mud every place,” said Nelson.

The very thing that fought the fires is now their biggest concern. That’s where Al Martinelli with the National Weather Service (NWS) comes in. He is an electronic tech responsible for the weather stations on the “burn scars,” areas damaged by fires, throughout the state.

“It monitors the precipitation,” said Martinelli. “If we meet certain thresholds, it sends off pretty much an immediate signal.”

The NWS then notifies the city.

Alpine saw that process in action last weekend, when thunderstorms hit the area.

So far, so good.

“It worked just as it was supposed to,” said Nelson. “We were very lucky.”

The system saved about 100 homes from flood damage, but the efforts are not a guarantee.

“We can't declare victory,” said Nelson. “We're just happy it worked like it did and we hope it works again.”

The NWS says it was a great partnership with the state of Utah to get the four weather stations to set up on burn scars.

Burn scars take about three years to heal. The NWS says when that happens, they can move the weather stations to other areas as they are needed.

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