Colorado Springs News, Sports & Business

Rain, floods and warnings put damper on Manitou Springs businesses

By Ned Hunter Updated: July 16, 2013 at 9:22 am 0

Fog concealed the top of Mount Manitou on Monday, where winds swirled around the peak and pushed a misting rain into the city.

After two flash floods shoved vehicles into ditches, destroyed homes, closed businesses, and prompted residents and tourists to evacuate the town, some business owners wonder if they can recover lost revenues - and whether the flood's media attention will hurt future income.

Alan Kerns was forced to close his amusement center nearly four hours July 1 when more than 2 inches of water flooded his gaming areas. Kerns owns Arcade Amusement Inc., which sits along Manitou Avenue near Fountain Creek.

He lost another three hours of work Wednesday, when flash flood warnings closed him a second time. That day, a 4-mile stretch of U.S. 24 was closed when a thunderstorm unleashed a cascade of water, rock and mud down the highway.

Just two weeks into July, Kerns estimates the floods and warnings have cost his business at least 5 percent of his normal monthly revenues, not including about $2,000 in cleanup costs.

"And this is my busy time of year," Kerns said, "when revenue in one hour can match a whole day in winter."

At about noon Monday, the few tourists and residents who braved Manitou's misty morning wore rain slickers and stepped cautiously across slippery cobblestone crosswalks.

Outside Adam's Mountain Cafe, Julie and Brian Williams of Woodland Park waited for a lunch table with their friends Jenny and Jim Miller of Fairfield, Calif. The Millers had not heard about the flood that forced Adam's to set up sandbags around its front deck. But the heavy rains of early July have certainly caused the Williams to pay closer attention to storm alerts received via their mobile phones.

"We just worry that we may not be able to get home through the pass," Brian Williams said.

The Williamses clearly are not the only weather watchers.

Emily Pazera, day manager of Adam's, said rain keeps some tourists from venturing into Manitou. She said several customers have asked if the town floods each time it rains.

"Citizens seem to be nervous to come to Manitou when it rains," she said.

Kerns worries the July 1 flood and subsequent flood watches and warnings will hurt some Manitou businesses well into August.

"People are still calling and asking if the roads are clear," he said.

Even so, few future Manitou tourists canceled reservations at the Cliff House at the corner of Canon and Park avenues after the July 1 flood, said Roland Sardaczuk, front office manager. He said the hotel is 85 percent booked through August.

Less than a quarter-mile down Canon Avenue, Hip Threads remained closed Monday with mounds of sandbags protecting its doorways. Sandbags also sat outside other businesses.

How badly a Manitou business is being affected depends a lot on its location. Businesses at higher elevation than Fountain Creek or far from the Williams Canyon drainage, such as Ruxton's Trading Post, 22 Ruxton Ave., had no flood damage, despite Ruxton Creek running underneath its building, said owner Mike Graham. He said his July business "has been good" ever since the Pikes Peak International Hill Climb. Likewise, Hell's Kitchen Pizza owner, Nelson Rufran, said his business saw about a 30 percent decline in business from July 1 to July 3 as tourists seemed to avoid Manitou. That trend changed on Independence Day.

"On the fourth and fifth I had record numbers," Rufran said.

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Contact Ned Hunter: 636-0275.

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