A Hiker Is Dead After Flash Floods Hit Bryce Canyon National Park
Storms dumped rainfall across Utah. One hiker died and another required rescue.
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One hiker is dead and another had to call for rescue after rainstorms caused flash flooding in two southern Utah canyons late last week.
On Saturday, the National Park Service said that search and rescue personnel had recovered the body of Jeanne Roblez Howell of Sedona, Arizona, in Bryce Canyon National Park. The park, with assistance from the Garfield County Sheriff’s Office’s search and rescue team and the Utah Department of Public Safety, initiated a search for the 64-year-old Howell after receiving a report that she was overdue from a hike on the park’s popular 8-mile-long Fairyland Loop. At 1:30 A.M. on August 26, searchers found Howell’s body in Campbell Canyon, approximately 1 mile east of the trail.
While the Park Service didn’t specify Howell’s cause of death, the press release noted that a storm had deposited “heavy rain” on the northern side of the park, and that it had received reports of flash flooding along the Fairyland Loop.
Two days before, on Thursday night, search and rescue personnel responded to another incident after receiving an iPhone SOS alert from Grand County’s Mary Jane Canyon, located northeast of Moab. In a Facebook post, Grand County Sheriff’s Search and Rescue team said it sent personnel up the canyon on foot, and shortly thereafter a helicopter from Classic Air Medical headed to the coordinates contained in the emergency message. Finding no one, the helicopter continued down the canyon and spotted the hiker, an unnamed 38-year-old woman, about 2 miles downstream with her dog.
When search and rescue personnel reached the hiker, they found her and her dog unharmed but barefoot and “covered in mud from head to toe.” The rescued hiker said she had heard a flash flood coming and had attempted to climb to higher ground. While she reached a sand bank above the river, the floodwaters eroded the sand beneath her feet and swept her and her pet 150 to 200 feet downcanyon, tearing off and carrying away her shoes in the process. When she received an error message on her phone, she believed her SOS hadn’t gone through, and began hiking barefoot back towards the trailhead. A member of the SAR that rescued the hiker team lent her his shoes for the rest of the hike out.
Parts of southern Utah have experienced heavy precipitation on a few occasions over the past two weeks. Following Tropical Storm Hilary’s landfall in Southern California on August 20, Zion, Bryce Canyon, and Capitol Reef national parks all advised visitors of higher than usual risks of flash flooding due to “monsoonal” rainfall.