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Flash flood warnings shut roads, wash away small bridges

By: The Gazette
July 14, 2014 Updated: July 14, 2014 at 10:48 pm
Caption +
The garden and yard of the Weissenfluh family in Cascade, Colorado, was innundated when the creek next to the property overflowed its banks. The flooding stopped short of the house because of sandbags that were put there during floods in the summer of 2013. Monday, July 14, 2014. (The Gazette/Jerilee Bennett)

A series of storms swept through El Paso County on Monday, prompting a string of weather warnings and advisories, closing U.S. 24 twice and washing away culverts and small bridges.

The storm hovered menacingly over the Waldo Canyon burn scar, and waterlogged soil threatened to send vegetation, mud and other debris cascading down the scar.

"Soils are getting a little less able to absorb the rain," said Randy Gray, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Pueblo.

A string of flash flood warnings first issued around 1 p.m. shut down the highway twice between Cave of the Winds and Cascade for several hours.

Manitou Springs police also closed Manitou Avenue, Canon Avenue, and Highway 24 exit ramps into and out of Manitou Springs. The city set up an emergency command post at Manitou Springs Elementary School, said Manitou Springs Police Department spokesman Dave Hunting. Emergency responders and traffic officials kept a watchful eye on water flowing east from the downpour that hit Woodland Park. Police also closed off access to low-lying areas as a precaution, he said. While the waters in Fountain Creek rose considerably, they didn't flood.

"It looks as though the mitigation we've been doing here in Manitou Springs has been doing its job," Hunting said after the first wave of storms.

With Manitou Avenue closed to traffic heading west into Manitou Springs, David Wild, who has lived a couple blocks from Manitou Avenue for 21 years, chose to park his vehicle and walk into town.

"It would be marvelous if you could really tell what the weather's going to do," said Wild, beneath skies that appeared to be clearing. "But we don't. And someone died last year."

The blue skies didn't last long. Another storm moved into western El Paso County, prompting a third flash flood warning for the burn scar and western El Paso County around 7 p.m..

In Green Mountain Falls, a drainage culvert on El Paso Avenue washed out, and residents living along Fountain Creek were told to move to higher ground, said Green Mountain Falls Fire Department spokesperson Rich Bowman.

"We had one house on Chipita Park Road that received a significant amount of damage," he said, adding that other houses had flooded basements and crawl spaces.

"Of course that's significant damage for those people, but as far as structural damage, they (the houses) seem to be OK," he said. "Other than that, we fared very well," said Bowman.

The home that flooded, located in a valley near Fountain Creek, had flooded last year as well, he said.

"We wish it would quit raining so hard in Woodland Park," said Bowman. The deluge that poured into Green Mountain Falls from Woodland Park shut down several roads, said Ryan Holzwarth, a police officer in Woodland Park..

"I don't think it's rained that hard up here since this time last year," he said.

In the wake of the storms, road crews worked to repair an eroded stretch of County Road 21, a dirt road that runs behind Wal-Mart. East of Wal-Mart, two bridges washed away, including one that takes both cars and pedestrians over a creek to the Wishing Well Motel. Another small bridge nearby that leads to wooded residential area also washed out, Holzwarth said. Crews were on scene repairing both bridges Monday night.

There were no injuries or car accidents, he said although ruddy water had gushed from many residential streets and prompted road closures.

"The Coachlight trailer park got hit pretty hard," Holzwarth said, adding that lot of mud and water streamed through the park and onto Highway 24. Morning Sun Drive amd Baldwin Street were closed to keep people from getting stuck in the mud.

"It was definitely a wet day," he said.

Between 4 p.m. and 8 p.m., rain gauges monitored by the U.S. Geological Survey had measured .33 inches of rain at Fountain Creek in Cascade, .23 inches at Waldo Canyon near Manitou Springs and .74 inches at Fort Carson.

Eastern parts of the county, including Falcon, Ellicott, Schiever Air Force Base and Cimarron Hills, got hit with heavy rain for the third day in a row. Parts of eastern El Paso County were under flash flood warnings until 8:30 p.m. Monday night.

Monday's storms followed a weekend of strong thunderstorms and flash floods that damaged several southeastern El Paso County roads, according to El Paso County officials.

Milne Road south of Myers Road, remained closed Monday, and stretches of Myers Road also are in need of repair, according to El Paso County.

The wet weather is expected to continue until at least mid-week.

"There's a 30 percent chance of rain until Wednesday," said Gray, the meteorologist. "We'll go through this again tomorrow."

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