At least three more individuals have lost their lives in the flooding in southern Utah and four more are missing in the narrow Keyhole Canyon on the east side of Zion National Park, according to Park spokeswoman Aly Baltrus. The victims were caught in a sudden flash flood when .63 inches of water fell in less than an hour. This is in addition to the twelve that are known to have been killed in the flash flood that ripped through the communities of Hildale and Colorado City, only twenty miles south but on the other side of the high Zion Park plateau.
Keyhole Canyon is a very narrow slot canyon that is accessible directly from the main SR9 road on the high east side of Zion. Although the canyon is easy to access, according to Climb-Utah.com, the canyon “has a very narrow and deep slot, plenty of wading; several short down downclimbing problems, multiple short rappels and it is completed by swimming down a long dark narrow corridor.” Complete technical gear, and a Zion Park permit is required to hike the canyon.
According to Zion National Park, “Rangers received a report of a group of seven individuals canyoneering in Keyhole Canyon shortly before the flooding began. Their unoccupied vehicles were located on Monday evening and a search began the morning of Tuesday, September 15, 2015 when it was determined that these individuals had not exited the canyon.”
The search for the missing hikers is being hampered because, “high water levels and continued rain showers pose further flash flooding concerns.” The National Weather Service predicts a greater than 50 percent chance of more rain on Tuesday evening on the east side of the park. Names are not being released at this time, pending notification of kin.
This comes on the heels of the 12 lives that were lost in Hildale when two vehicles containing 16 people were swept away in a very sudden flash flood. One person is still missing in the Hildale flooding.
Stay tuned to The Independent for updates on this and related stories.