MORGAN — If the East Canyon, Lost Creek, Echo or Rockport dams above Morgan Valley ruptured, students in the city below would have 25 minutes to get away from the approaching flood, said Ken Adams, Morgan County Schools superintendent.
That grim scenario prompted Morgan County schools to hold an emergency evacuation drill Wednesday for about 1,800 students. The shoulder-to-shoulder procession of Morgan preschool, elementary, middle and high school students wound its way up 100 South until the crowd reached Wilkinson Construction Company, 1200 E. 100 South, at the top of the hill.
“That’s a herd of humanity right there,” Adams said, as he watched the wide parade of students, most of whom were wearing blaze orange as a reminder of the Oct. 10 Unity Day during National Bullying Prevention Month.
Mountain Green Elementary School is 1,000 feet above Morgan Valley, so that school did not need to participate in the drill, he said.
Despite the bright colors and students’ orderly progress, the evacuation drill showed the potential for a high casualty count.
Morgan High School students were at the top of the hill in 18 minutes, followed by Morgan Elementary students at 22 minutes. Morgan Middle School achieved the summit in 26 minutes. Caregivers walked the preschool kids — two got hauled in a little red wagon — up the hill. The group arrived in 27 minutes; a good time for the age group, but less than adequate for an actual flood.
“Three-year-old legs are different than 18-year-old legs,” said Tim Wolff, Morgan Elementary principal, after the drill.
It’s also harder to prepare the preschool children because there is a different set of kids every day, he added.
It’s likely there would be a bus available for the preschoolers, Wolff said, but planners wanted to practice this time without one.
“From the bell ring to the time the buzzers went off, I was getting swarmed in less than five minutes,” said Courtney Gualco, Morgan Elementary Parent/Teacher School Organization president, who was standing at the corner as the students walked past.
An actual emergency is possible, said Wade Murdock, Morgan High School principal. Rockport, Echo, East Canyon and Lost Creek reservoirs all drain into Morgan Valley, so any ruptured dam could present a flood danger. The schools are also located near Interstate 84 and Highway 66, where hazardous material spills could require the area to be evacuated.
Even though 2012 is a drought year so far, Murdock said the Weber River required “some major sandbagging last year,” which offered a reminder of flood danger.
Like Murdock, Terry Turner, Morgan County ambulance supervisor and emergency management director, could also think of many scenarios that might require the schools to be evacuated. Besides flooding and toxic spills on the highways, a Union Pacific train loaded with hazardous chemicals might derail. Pipelines filled with highly pressurized crude oil, natural gas or a finished product of gasoline or diesel could be punctured. A fire could break out. The apocalyptic scenarios seemed endless.
However, the parade of students in their orange vests did make a pretty sight.
“It looks like shredded orange peels everywhere,” said Chloe Adams, a Morgan Middle School eighth-grader.
Her 13-year-old friend, Savannah Wallace, agreed, although she was more inclined to see the crowd as “shredded cheese.”