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Flash flood watch in effect for El Paso and Teller counties

May 8, 2013 Updated: May 8, 2013 at 10:55 pm
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photo - An aerial photo Thursday, January 24, 2013, of the foothills just west of Mountain Shadows charred by the 2012 Waldo Canyon Fire. Photo by Mark Reis, The Gazette
An aerial photo Thursday, January 24, 2013, of the foothills just west of Mountain Shadows charred by the 2012 Waldo Canyon Fire. Photo by Mark Reis, The Gazette 

Thousands of residents living downstream from the Waldo Canyon burn scar avoided a muddy mess Wednesday when the threat of flash flooding diminished in the evening.

But the risk isn't over.

A slow moving storm could produce flash flooding Thursday, and the problem isn't going to go away any time soon.

'This is going to go on for the entire summer. Get used to it, ' Mark Wankowski, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Pueblo, said Wednesday night.

Wankowski said weather gauges showed between two-tenths and three-tenths of precipitation on the burn scar Wednesday.

'If we do get a little bit of heavier rain, there's still the possibility of seeing some flash flooding, ' he said. 'But it's not as big as it was today. We got pretty lucky because the heaviest rain was up in the Denver area. '

The weather service issued a flash-flood watch for El Paso and Teller counties, including Waldo Canyon and Manitou Springs, through Thursday afternoon.

Lead forecaster Larry Walrod said the weather service is monitoring every weather cell over the area to keep the public informed about possible flash flooding. The 2012 Waldo Canyon fire blackened 18,000 acres, and the denuded land poses a massive flood risk.

'The biggest concern is a large amount of precipitation over a short period of time, ' Walrod said. 'That's where it becomes problematic. '

Colorado Springs had at least a dozen spotters from Utilities and the police, fire and public works departments patrolling 13 zones along the western edge of the city.

'They're really tasked with observing areas and reporting back the potential threat to command, and command can then make decisions based upon what they're hearing from their patrol, ' fire department spokeswoman Sunny Smaldino said.

Smaldino said the patrols act as lookouts.

'The intention of the patrols is to monitor the situation, but it isn't to be frontline rescue operations, ' she said.

Patricia Baxter, El Paso County emergency manager, said the county had about 10 people roaming the Ute Pass area from 31st Street in western Colorado Springs to Green Mountain Falls. They were keeping an eye on Sand Gulch, Wellington Gulch and other watersheds that dump into Fountain Creek, Baxter said.

'Even with light rain, it may cause some debris flows, ' she said.

Baxter advised people living near flash flood zones to leave the area or head to higher ground at the first sign of trouble. She said the best plan is to get a National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration weather radio for the most up-to-date alerts. The radios can be purchased online or at many retail outlets, including Walmart.

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Reporters Andrea Sinclair and Matt Steiner contributed to this report.

Contact Daniel ChacOn: 476-1623 Twitter @danieljchacon

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