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Gazette Premium Content Roads reopen, Green Mountain Falls gazebo still standing after Thursday deluge

The Gazette - Updated: August 23, 2013 at 1:21 pm

Here's a roundup of Thursday's storm that hit the region and the aftermath:

10:30 a.m. Friday: Adam's Mountain Cafe appears dry and a clerk at the arcade in downtown Manitou Springs said there was no flood damage.

10:15 a.m. Friday: The National Weather Service has an updated chart showing rain totals over the a 24-hour period ending at 7 a.m. Friday. Many parts of Colorado Springs received between 2.5 and 3 inches of rain. Monument had 3.11 inches. Several accounts had some areas getting 4 to 6 inches of rain. See the chart here.

9:45 a.m. Friday: The bridge just east of Green Mountain Falls remains closed after high water Thursday punched a four-foot wide hole in it. The lake around the town's gazebo is muddy, but the gazebo survived the deluge.

Water came over the banks of Fountain Creek in Chipeta Park, stretching about 50 yards beyond the creek. The obvious damage appears minimal, according to Gazette reporter Matt Steiner.

9:40 a.m. Friday (Friday's forecast from the National Weather Service): A 20 percent chance of showers and thunderstorms after noon. Partly sunny, with a high near 83. South wind 5 to 15 mph. New rainfall amounts of less than a tenth of an inch, except higher amounts possible in thunderstorms. Tonight: A 20 percent chance of showers and thunderstorms before 9pm. Partly cloudy, with a low around 59. South wind 10 to 15 mph becoming light and variable in the evening. New rainfall amounts of less than a tenth of an inch, except higher amounts possible in thunderstorms.

7:55 a.m. Friday: All river and flash flood warnings for southern Colorado have been canceled, according to the National Weather Service.

7:30 a.m. Friday: Colorado Springs police are reporting that Voyager Parkway has reopened to all traffic, according to tweets.

6 a.m. Friday: Highway 50 near Boone, east of Pueblo, has reoponed.

Also, Hanover schools are on a 2-hour delay and James Madison Charter School in Colorado Springs is closed because of flood damage.

12:25 a.m. Friday: Colorado Springs Utilities reports that power has been restored to most customers affected by outage near East Platte Avenue and Peterson Road.

Also, U.S. 50 near Boone, east of Pueblo, has been closed in both directions because of flooding, the Colorado Department of Transportation reports.

12:10 a.m. Friday: Black Forest Road has reopened in both directions, according to the El Paso County Sheriff's Office. The Red Cross closed the Manitou Springs evacuation center at midnight. Just before midnight, U.S. Highway 24 reopened after being closed for several hours.

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Thursday's roundup

Ferocious rainstorms Thursday slammed the Front Range, dumping several inches of rain and golf ball-size hail, causing flooding on busy streets and forcing the closure of northbound Interstate 25 and both directions of U.S. 24.

Pictures and videos on social media showed the power of the storm, including raging floodwaters in Fountain Creek that washed away a backhoe in Crystola and residents shoveling hail from sidewalks and driveways in neighborhoods near Powers and Dublin boulevards in north Colorado Springs.

The storms moved particularly slow - exaggerating the effects by having the chance to drop more rain and hail, said Pamela Evenson, a National Weather Service meteorologist in Pueblo.

"We did have a lot of moisture in the atmosphere," Evenson said.

"They were big storms, but they were moving so slowly," Evenson added. "The slow movement was a big problem."

The problem was felt on roadways. Northbound I-25 was shut down for about 40 minutes, and U.S. 24 closed in both directions about 6 p.m. and remained closed at 10:30 p.m., with an estimated reopening at 1 a.m. Friday.

Several streets across the Pikes Peak region were closed because of flooding, including portions of Voyager Parkway, Black Forest Road, Squirrel Creek Road, West Colorado Avenue and Bandley Road.

The storms were forecast to send Fountain Creek over its banks in Colorado Springs after midnight, according to the National Weather Service.

Shortly after 9 p.m., a stream gauge at Nevada Avenue showed the water at 7 feet - about 1 foot below flood stage. At 10 p.m., forecasters were calling for the river to reach 10.8 feet, said Larry Walrod, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Pueblo.

The creek normally flows at 1.5 feet, Walrod said. A flood warning specifically for Fountain Creek was extended to Friday afternoon.

"This rain so far is just really not letting up," Walrod said.

Rain gauges spiked across the region in the evening hours.

The Colorado Springs Airport received 1.77 inches of rain as of 8:12 p.m., according to the weather service.

A weather spotter 5 miles southeast of Monument recorded 3.12 inches of rain as of 7 p.m., while a spotter near Woodland Park measured 2.79 inches at 7:21 p.m.

Manitou Springs was virtually inaccessible from the east Thursday evening, although cars could come out of the town. An El Paso County sheriff's deputy reported some flooding at the Manitou Springs Penny Arcade, which was hit in the Aug. 9 flash flood.

The Red Cross set up an emergency shelter at the 1st Congregational Church at 103 Pawnee Ave., where about eight people took shelter Thursday evening.

About 25 Manitou Springs firefighters were staging at 10:30 p.m. at Manitou Springs Elementary School as Fountain Creek's volume began to increase, said Dave Hunting, a Manitou Springs Fire Department spokesman.

Cimarron Hills Fire Department crews offered support.

Despite the rains, though, Fountain Creek had yet to breach its banks, he said.

Just after 10 p.m., Colorado Springs Utilities was working to fix two weather-related power outages affecting about 2,000 customers: One near Constitution Avenue and North Circle Drive; the other near East Platte Avenue and Peterson Road. The utility expected to restore power in two to three hours.

At one point, police received multiple reports of clouds near Austin Bluffs Parkway and Academy Boulevard that looked as if they could produce a tornado.

Firefighters rescued several stranded motorists and repeatedly warned residents to steer clear of creeks, waterways and low-lying areas.

Mario Barbish, who was driving his brand-new Camaro, got the warning too late.

Barbish, 43, was northbound on Voyager Parkway when he got stuck in a river of water.

"My car just died, and I was stuck there," he said. "So then I was just waiting for it to subside, and my car just started leaking in and filling up."

Barbish said he forced the door open when he couldn't get the windows to roll down.

"The only thing I had to break the window open was my bottle of wine, but that's for dinner," he said, laughing.

Barbish got out and swam through icy, murky water with the help of a passerby.

"It was ice cold like Alaska," said Barbish, who was soaked, shivering and wearing a blue towel around his shoulders. "It was freezing. It was just like solid ice or hail."

In Green Mountain Falls, rainfall created a muddy mess.

There's a pretty big hill up behind our store and there's a ton a mud going down our driveway and going down our sidewalk," said Daylin Valentin, a clerk at Western Convenience Store.

"I was just thinking if it's that crazy up here, it's probably way worse out in the pass," she said.

It was.

Water was spilling over the banks of Fountain Creek, said Brian Sherman, owner of the Crystola Roadhouse.

"It almost looked like waves in the ocean," he said.

"We watched a tree go down, a pretty good size tree that didn't used to be in the middle of the river, but it was this afternoon for a little while. A big pine tree. We saw it float by," he said.

The National Weather Service in Pueblo issued flash flood and severe thunderstorm warnings throughout the day.

The flash flood warning was extended to Pueblo and other parts of southern Colorado. The Denver area also was hit hard by the storm, with reports of several inches of hail in the Littleton area.

The forecast for Friday calls for a 20 percent chance of rain and thunderstorms, mostly after 1 p.m.

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Gazette reporter Garrison Wells contributed to this report.

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