News For U — Episode 6: Are floods coming to Utah?


Sydney Stam

(Graphic by Sydney Stam | The Daily Utah Chronicle)

Read Vanessa Hudson’s story on Gov. Cox’s most recent press conference here.

Emma Ratkovic  0:04  

Hello and welcome back to News For You, the Daily Utah Chronicle news podcast. I’m Emma and on today’s episode of the podcast, we are going to talk about the risk of flooding due to above normal snowfall. With above average snowfall to melt, Gov. Cox warns Utahns to get ready for flooding. News Writer Vanessa Hudson has met with us today to further speak on Gov. Cox’s monthly press conference that was held on March 16. Hi, Vanessa, thank you so much for joining us on the podcast today.


Vanessa Hudson  0:31  

 Hi Emma, thank you for having me!


Emma Ratkovic  0:33  

Vanessa, can you tell me a little bit about yourself and what you do for the Chronicle? 


Vanessa Hudson  0:37  

Yeah, so I’m a sophomore, I’m studying journalism and dance. I’ve been here at the Chrony for about a year and a half now. And I’m a News Writer on the news desk, and I write breaking news, campus news and also about local politics. 


Emma Ratkovic  0:49  

Cool. So what did Gov. Cox talk about at the March 16 press conference? 


Vanessa Hudson  0:54  

Yeah, so we talked about quite a few things but kind of to set some context. Every month, Gov. Cox holds a press conference with PBS Utah. All the press is welcome to attend and ask questions about whatever’s going on in the state. And this conference comes right at the end of the Utah State Legislative session. So there were a lot of questions about bills, specifically talking about the ones restricting abortion access, regulating social media and also asking about equity, diversity and inclusion in higher education. He also talked about water a lot because the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints permanently donated 5,700 water shares to the Great Salt Lake, which is a huge deal. It’s a historic donation for everyone involved, so he was more than happy to talk about that. 


Emma Ratkovic  1:36  

He also spoke on Utah’s risk of flooding after the snow melts. Can you explain what Cox said those risks were? 


Vanessa Hudson  1:43  

Yeah, for sure. So, he said that there was a lot of potential for roads to flood or even for houses to flood, flash flooding and the outdoors. I know we have a lot of outdoorsy people here in Utah. So yeah, just the main risks. And you know, being wary of that and watching out. There’s drowning risks. I mean, there’s all kinds of risks when it comes to flooding. 


Gov. Spencer Cox  2:05  

So check your insurance policy. Many homeowners don’t realize that flood insurance is not part of their regular homeowners insurance. It is a separate policy. So if you are in a flood prone area, you should explore flood insurance, I will mention that it usually takes 30 days for those policies to kick in. So again, as we near flood season, especially in northern Utah, I would encourage people to look at that. There are lots of great tips to protect your home at and


Emma Ratkovic  2:35  

In your article you explained that there was an emergency involving flooding recently at Snow Canyon State Park. Can you explain what occurred at that incident? 


Vanessa Hudson  2:43  

Yeah, so at Snow Canyon State Park in Washington County, a family of five was rescued from a flash flood. The family got caught across the wash and they were from Florida and they did the right thing and they immediately called for help. So rescue crews in Washington County were able to rescue them. They used high lines and there were no injuries, so very good. 


Emma Ratkovic  3:04  

And you also shared that two people were found dead and one injured after floodwater drifted into a slot canyon. Can you explain what happened in that incident? 


Vanessa Hudson  3:12  

Yeah, so on the Utah-Arizona border, there was a group of about three hikers and a slot canyon is, it’s when hikers kind of go in and the canyon is on both sides and it’s a very tight area. So, what happens in, you know, very heavy snowfall or rain, the water just comes rushing in and you get caught so fast that there’s not, you know, there’s not a lot you can do and so unfortunately, two people died as they got caught in the slot canyon as those flash floods came in and one person was rescued, I believe, with the helicopter and they were left with some serious injury. 


Emma Ratkovic  3:48  

How should Utahns prepare for the flooding? 


Vanessa Hudson  3:50  

Yeah, I think being aware, check the weather often. Just be wary of what’s going on. Stay indoors, if you see that the weather is going to be really bad — even if you really want to go hiking, I also love hiking so I understand the want to go out but just you know, stay safe. Don’t drive in flooded streets. There’s real potential for drowning. Also, Cox had mentioned stay alert, listen to the news and the weather alerts and when storms are headed your way. And yeah, especially if you’re in the outdoors, just check the weather. Be very cautious and wary about where you’re going and what you’re doing. Always have a backup plan. Always have emergency contacts, like, just be prepared. 


Emma Ratkovic  4:31  

Can you explain what was written in Cox’s executive order and how it will impact Utahns? 


Vanessa Hudson  4:36  

Yes, so that executive order was signed for state employees to take time off so that they could help in their counties when floods happen. So basically, they will get paid time off to go, and they can help put up sandbag barriers with flooding or just help their crews in general. 


Gov. Spencer Cox  4:56  

In addition, today, I will be issuing an executive order allowing all state employees to take up to eight hours of administrative leave to help with local flood mitigation efforts. Between now and Aug. 31st, state employees can use work time to pitch in filling sandbags and joining other flood responses in their county or an adjacent county. We want an army of residents ready, and I know we will have volunteers joining them from across the state as they’re called upon to do. 


Emma Ratkovic  5:26  

Cox also spoke about new plans for youth using social media. According to your article, Gov. Cox signed S.B. 152, which would require Utahns to upload age-verifying information to social networking platforms in order to use them. Can you explain the purpose of this new bill? 


Vanessa Hudson  5:45  

Yeah, so S.B. 152 Just makes some social media regulations and it also enacts the Utah Social Media Regulation Act. It prohibits minors from having a social media account without parental consent, and social media companies also have to verify that their users are over the age of 18. 


Emma Ratkovic  6:03  

What does Cox hope to accomplish with this bill?


Vanessa Hudson  6:06  

So, he is wanting to address the mental health crisis with this bill specifically, and he really wants to regulate social media for kids. He said that the government needs to protect kids from the dangers of social media, and there have been concerns about free speech violations from free speech lawyers. But in his press conference, he said that they are confident they have the evidence to win any legal challenges that come their way. So I think more than anything, he’s really trying to address the mental health crisis across the state. 


Gov. Spencer Cox  6:39  

You can ask parents, and they will tell you, you can ask teachers and they will tell you — better yet ask the students, ask teenagers, this one of my favorite things to do. I asked them, “Are you seeing an increase in your own life, amongst your friends, in your school in depression, anxiety and self harm?” And every one of them will say yes. And then I asked the question, what do you think is causing it? And every one of them tell me it’s social media. 


Emma Ratkovic  7:04  

Is there anything else that occurred at the press conference that you would like to speak on? 


Vanessa Hudson  7:08  

Yes, there is. Let’s talk about abortion restrictions. Cox was asked if there would be a total defacto ban on abortions. And he said no, but then he signed H.B. 467, which basically builds on the trigger law that was blocked last summer after the overturning of Roe v. Wade. So, this bill that he just signed, H.B. 467 will close all abortion clinics, effective on the first of January next year, and it also makes having an abortion after 18 weeks illegal except in cases where the mother’s life is at risk or there’s a fetal abnormality. But yeah, it really just puts that restriction on and kind of was a go around on the trigger law. Another thing he talks about, I got to ask him about equity, diversity and inclusion in higher education. Because during the legislative session, one of the senators there, John Johnson, introduced a bill that would prohibit all equity, diversity and inclusion in higher education. And the University of Utah has so many programs that help so many students get to where they need to be, and so luckily, that bill was changed to a study for the summer. So there’s no need to worry right now. But I asked Gov. Cox, because he really hadn’t said much about that bill, and basically, he told me there were good diversity, equity and inclusion programs and there were bad programs. 


Vanessa Hudson  8:34  

Governor, in the last week of the legislative session, several bills were discussed about diversity, equity and inclusion. For example, S.B. 283, which is now a study, originally sought to prohibit diversity, equity and inclusion in institutions of higher education. I’m wondering what are your thoughts about restricting these programs and organizations, and do you think they’re important to college students? 


Gov. Spencer Cox  8:55  

Sure. Yeah. So I think there’s a little nuance to that question. There’s good diversity and inclusion, and there’s not good diversity and inclusion. And there is a, you see a little bit of both of that, unfortunately. And it’s too bad that those terms get used differently, I think we talk past each other sometimes. I do think that there are some very extreme versions of that mindset, that have led to, unfortunately, bad policy and terrible divides. We saw it at, I think it was Stanford in California recently, where a judge was shouted down and a Diversity, Equity, Inclusion Dean came in and he apologized afterwards, but I think acted incredibly inappropriate. And so I think it’s important that we look at those programs and make sure they’re doing what they’re supposed to do — and that is make sure that Utah is a place where everyone, everyone feels accepted, everyone has a voice. That is very important to me. Those bills either didn’t pass or got changed drastically, and I think that’s really important. I always tell people, again, you can judge the legislature, by what gets passed, not by what gets introduced. And so I feel good about where the session ended up, and I think, again, I think it is important that we work to make sure that everyone feels included, but we don’t have to exclude people to make that happen. And that’s unfortunately, what happens with some of these DEI programs. 


Vanessa Hudson  10:33  

He said he feels good about what ended up happening with that bill and that the bills that were targeting those programs didn’t pass or they were changed, and so that he wasn’t super concerned with it. He said that it is important that everyone is included, but he thinks that some programs should be looked at to make sure that they’re doing what they’re supposed to do. 


Emma Ratkovic  10:54  

Thank you so much for joining us on the podcast today, Vanessa! 


Emma Ratkovic  10:57  

Thank you for having me. 


Emma Ratkovic  10:59  

And thank you so much for tuning into News For You. Look out for a new episode next Monday.


Executive Producer: Theadora Soter[email protected] | @sotertheadora

Producer: Graham Jones[email protected]

Host: Emma Ratkovic [email protected]

Guest: Vanessa Hudson[email protected] | @vanessachrony