There is plenty of flooding in Colorado Springs away from the burn scars

August 13, 2013 Updated: August 13, 2013 at 10:17 pm
photo - The scene Tuesday, August13, 2013, where a body was found following a hail and rain storm in the west fork of Sand Creek off Platte Avenue between Murray Boulevard and Wooten Road.  Photo by Mark Reis, The Gazette
The scene Tuesday, August13, 2013, where a body was found following a hail and rain storm in the west fork of Sand Creek off Platte Avenue between Murray Boulevard and Wooten Road. Photo by Mark Reis, The Gazette 

Searchers on Tuesday pulled the body of a 17-year-old girl from Sand Creek - a creek bed that normally runs dry.

During the Friday evening downpour, heavy rains in Colorado Springs caused the usually docile trickle of Shooks Run to whip into a raging torrent - nearly pulling a man downstream near Kiowa Avenue.

The latest cases of flash flooding took place miles from the Waldo Canyon or Black Forest burn areas in streams that only fill during rare downpours. The incidents - and a spate of others over the last couple week - underscore the dangerous way that seemingly innocuous waterways can turn to deadly torrents, far away from the burn scars, officials said.

"It has rained so much over the past few weeks, it won't take lots for the creek beds to overflow," said Tommy Smith, the Colorado Springs Fire Department's interim chief. "Even if it rains up north, the water will eventually get here (the city)."

The threat of flash flooding has always been a part of life in Manitou Springs, which sits at the mouth of Williams and Waldo canyons. The Waldo Canyon fire in 2012 made the danger much worse, as residents discovered this year.

On Friday, John Collins, 53 drowned when swept away in floodwaters on U.S. 24 west of Manitou Springs.

On Tuesday, that danger was apparent again, when state transportation officials closed U.S. 24 as another set of storms rolled over the region. No flooding was reported in Manitou Springs.

The latest incident away from a burn area happened Monday, when Rose Hammes, 17, was swept downstream while apparently seeking cover from the rain under a bridge.

Rose sought the bridge while taking a walk near Radiant Church and Wold Avenue, off North Academy Boulevard and Maizeland Road, according to Sunny Smaldino, Colorado Springs Fire Department spokeswoman.

Her mother, Kristine Hammes, told police that the teen called asking for help and she had instructed her daughter to seek shelter from the storm. Kristine Hammes said she was on her way to pick Rose Hammes up.

It was the last time they spoke.

Rose Hammes' parents reported Rose missing at 5:45 p.m. and four hours later, firefighters found a shirt matching Hammes' clothing north of Galley Road. Shortly before midnight, firefighters found her body under a bridge at Platte Avenue, west of Wooten Road.

Shooks Run normally doesn't have enough water in it for a person to swim. Friday's downpour changed that in a hurry, and a man nearly lost his life.

"He was clinging to bridge, in middle. As soon as I saw him I grab extension cord," said an anonymous witness, who is an immigrant from Peru. While his wife called 911, he lowered the cord to the man and he and a neighbor held it to keep the man from washing way in water up to his waist.

Firefighters hoisted the man - wearing a backpack and soaked clothes - to safety with a ladder truck. Firefighters say he was uninjured.

"This is why you gotta stay out of the ditches," said Colorado Springs Fire Department battalion chief Mike Wittry.

Last week, another downpour caused a bridge on Hanover Road near Meridian Road to wash out - resulting in an estimated $70,000 in damages. Street flooding also has been common during heavy downpours along Marksheffel Road.

"It's something that we've seen in the past, it's something we will see in a future," said Jeff Besse, Colorado Springs' stormwater specialist. "We've been in a drought for so long that people forget that we have the potential for large amounts of rain and potential flash flooding when this does happen."

The flash flooding comes as the region deals with an unusually rainy monsoon season.

Since July 1 - which is typically the start of the Pikes Peak region's monsoon season - 6.85 inches of rain has fallen at the Colorado Springs' Airport, said Nolan Doesken, climatologist at Colorado State University.

The airport has received more rain in the same time span only four other years since 1948, he said.

In addition, lower temperatures than last year have helped the ground retain more moisture, he said.

So far in August, for example, Colorado Springs' average temperature has been 68.6 degrees - five degrees cooler than the same time period last year, Doesken said.

"It's just been persistent," Doesken said. "There just hasn't been many breaks once the pattern got set up."

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