A crowd of more than 100 people echoed a mantra in unison that multiple Colorado Springs officials stressed at a flood preparedness meeting on Tuesday night.
"Up, not out," they said loudly after being prompted by police Lt. Dave Edmondson.
Brian Polaski, who lives near the Wilson Ranch Pool, and Brandi McNeilley, who lives on Platte Avenue near 31st Street were in the audience at the meeting designed for those along the Camp Creek watershed in western Colorado Springs. The meeting was held at the Glen Eyrie Castle off 30th Street.
Both Polaski and McNeilly reiterated after the event just how important the "up, not out" instruction is for them and their families.
"Our only choice is to go up to our second floor," said Polaski, who lives on a cul-de-sac and wouldn't have an easy escape if flash-flood waters came pouring down North Douglas Creek. "And then we'd hope that the house doesn't float away."
City officials, including Emergency Manager Bret Waters and others talked about the 2013 floods that struck the city and El Paso County in July, August and September. Waters said his colleagues and the residents need to "take flood risk very seriously," noting that flash floods coming out of the Waldo Canyon Fire burn scar are going to be an issue "for at least the next 10 years."
Tim Mitros, the city's development review and stormwater manager, showed slide after slide of the dangers that lie in the Camp Creek drainage in the hills to the west of Colorado Springs. The pictures illustrated barren, burnout out slopes that have already, and could, send tons of dirt rocks and other debris into the channel along Garden of the Gods Park. and into the Pleasant Valley neighborhood.
"We've got to keep the sediment up in the burn area," Mitros said.
Mitros said city crews will begin building a large sediment detention pond on the east end of Garden of the Gods Park in the next month. At that time, workers will also begin doing repairs to the channel in the middle of 31st Street near Pleasant Valley. They will be adding a "protective layer of concrete" to badly damaged parts of the creek between West Fontanero Street and Echo Lane.
The work is the beginning stages of a $37 million project to rebuild the channel from Garden of the Gods Park to Colorado Avenue, Mitros said. The city already allotted $8.8 million to do work in Camp and Douglas creeks. Mitros said the final designs for the entire project will be unveiled at another Camp Creek watershed public meeting from 5 to 7:30 p.m. April 29 at Coronado High School.
National Weather Service meteorologist Jennifer Stark also talked about the dangers of debris in the Camp Creek and Douglas Creek areas. She said storms in September that ravaged the Front Range from El Paso County north to the Wyoming border left tons and tons of debris sitting just above the city.
"The next big rain event could bring that stuff down," she said.
Stark reminded all to monitor the weather and alerts from multiple sources, including weather radios, text and email alerts and local television stations. She said if rain falls at a pace of 2 inches per hours, flash flooding is expected to occur. During flash floods in July 2013, rain hit the Waldo Canyon burn area at rates of 1.5 to 3.5 inches per hour , Stark said, noting that the worst storm on Aug. 9 saw up to 5 inches per hour.
Those storms mainly affected the Waldo Canyon and Williams Canyon areas. Waters said Tuesday the northwest parts of town, including Camp and Douglas creeks "have not yet been tested."
Ken Hughlett, the Colorado Springs Emergency Management Coordinator, also gave a presentation. He brought along his emergency kit and showed the crowd how to pack one. Among the items were duct tape, flashlights, water, food, medicine and a portable weather radio.
McNeilley said she and her husband Bill said the meeting was "awesome" and they would focus on preparing an emergency kit of their own as their first step toward preparedness.
"We're going to make one for us and our dogs," she said.
EMERGENCY KIT ITEMS
Ken Hughlett, the Colorado Springs Emergency Management Coordinator, gave people attending Tuesday's Camp Creek Flood Preparedness meeting some hints for packing an emergency kit.
Here are some items he suggests including:
- Duct tape
- deodorant, toothbrush and toothpaste
- rain poncho
- drinking water
- weather radio
- deck of cards
- list of phone numbers
Hughlett fit all these items in a small backpack.