Severe storm: Homes, streets flooded on Sunday

Posted 7/16/19

A deluge hit the Powell area on Sunday, releasing pea- to marble-sized hail and heavy rain that flooded the animal shelter, area residences, businesses and agricultural fields.

As Brenda Mattson …

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Severe storm: Homes, streets flooded on Sunday


A deluge hit the Powell area on Sunday, releasing pea- to marble-sized hail and heavy rain that flooded the animal shelter, area residences, businesses and agricultural fields.

As Brenda Mattson watched the storm from inside her home, she knew things were not going to be good.

“It just didn’t stop and it got harder and harder and harder — and I could see waves of water coming across into our driveway,” Mattson recalled.

She lives at the corner of South and Jones streets — which she described as the low point of the south side of town — and wound up with about a half-foot of water in her basement, backyard and carport.

“We had water from all directions coming into our house,” Mattson said. “We had it from South Street, we had it from Jones Street, we had it from our neighbor’s house. ... We had it from over across on Washington Street. All of it was flowing towards our corner and [there was] nowhere for it to go.”

As water poured into her basement like a stream, she worried it was going to cave in.

“All I could do was just pray. That’s all I could do,” Mattson said.


A lot of water — fast

There were similar stories around the Powell area, with varying degrees of flooding reported at dozens of homes.

Sunday’s storm hit at 4:39 p.m. and continued for 33 minutes, dumping 0.64 of an inch of rain at Powell resident Terry Foley’s weather station on the north side of town. The event brought wind gusts of 47 mph and sustained winds of 36 mph, according to Foley’s data on

“It was pretty intense for the duration. Torrential is not a term you hear often in Wyoming, but it was,” Foley said. He said other areas received more rain and hail than recorded at his station; for instance, 0.76 of an inch was recorded in Garland, with 0.86 of an inch in Ralston.

It was enough to turn Powell’s streets into near-rivers and to create ponds around town. Some residents and children took the opportunity to splash around, kayak or inner tube in town, while others dealt with destroyed vegetation and flooding.

“I remember some bad storms and stuff, but I don’t remember this much water this fast,” said Kleen Kare owner J.J. Jeide, who grew up in Powell.

Jeide said Monday that the company had been busy responding to about 15 different calls for service since the storm. And that didn’t count the folks they were unable to get to.

Many of the calls were for water that pooled in window wells (sometimes as much as 3 or 4 feet) and then leaked through cracks into the basements.

“I’ve done this for a lot of years and ... there’s a lot of water,” Jeide said.

Auston Hunter, who co-owns Hunter Clean Care in Powell, has responded to substantial floods back east and in California over the past decade.

“But I haven’t seen that amount of water this quick. I mean, within 20 minutes there was people surfing on the street,” Hunter said. “I’ve never seen anything that violent in person. It was pretty crazy.”

Hunter Clean Care had received around 35 calls as of Monday afternoon — including 17 properties the company was actively working to dry out, Hunter said.

The worst Hunter had seen was a home on Road 9. That’s where a roughly 1,800 square foot basement was filled with about 7 feet of water; a next-door neighbor, meanwhile, had about 6 feet of water in the bottom level of his home.

Hunter said his own basement ended up with roughly 2 inches of water, but “we haven’t even gotten to that one yet,” he laughed. “We’re trying to help everyone else before we get to our house.”

The company has about 300 air movers, but it had to rent another 125 from Billings to keep up with the need around Powell.

“We worked till about 4 [a.m.] last night then got back at it at about 6 this morning,” Hunter said. “We’re hoping to sleep tonight maybe if we can catch up.”


Drainage system performed as expected

Mattson was fortunate in that her husband was able to borrow a vac truck from his employer, Keele Sanitation, to pump out their basement. It sucked out a couple thousand gallons of water.

“We were blessed, for sure,” Mattson said.

She said the couple lost some things, including a few boxes of the food they’ve stored in the basement. More concerning are some family pictures that were in the carport and various items belonging to the Mattson’s children that may have been ruined. Like many in Powell, they did not have flood insurance.

Going forward, Mattson hopes the city will look at improving the drainage around her home, saying it’s been raised as a concern in the past.

While she’s never seen anything like Sunday’s storm during her decades in Powell, “it seems like [these] things are happening more and more often,” Mattson said.

Speaking generally, City Administrator Zack Thorington said Powell’s storm sewer system performed as expected, but there’s only so much it can do with a downpour like the one seen on Sunday. Powell doesn’t sit on a floodplain, so it almost never sees so much rain in such a short period of time, Thorington said. He described it as a 100-year event.

“There is no storm drain system that I know of that can handle a flashflood, unless it was designed for that,” he said.

Thorington noted that the flood spread a lot of mud and trash throughout the streets of Powell. Street sweepers will be out cleaning up all the debris left behind by the receding waters.

For people still dealing with standing water, Hunter encouraged them to contact a cleaning company; mold starts growing within about 72 hours.

“A lof people wait and think it’s better to wait until the insurance comes out but ... if you let it sit for three or four days, the damage has been done at that point,” Hunter said. “But if we can get in early, a lot of times we can save it.”