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5/18/2017 “We dodged a bullet:” Heavy spring storm caused flooding near Wetmore
Even with the late gray afternoons and sprits of snow on the high peaks, the recent spring weather almost has us forgetting that a week ago the schools were closed for a mud/snow day, and we were sloshing through the last gasps of winter. But even more seriously, in the words of Cindy Howard, director of the county’s Office of Emergency Management (OEM), “We dodged a bullet on this one.” Howard is referring of course to the heavy precipitation in the Wetmore area last week. She adds, “Given saturated soils, several days of heavy rains and the storm’s path over the burn scar on Wednesday, May 10, things could have been much worse. Our main concern continues to be debris along the creek and in the inundation areas. Property owners are encouraged to continue to move ‘anything that will float’ out of the potential path of flood waters.” The scenario of stream beds awash with damaging and dangerous debris that the county has anticipated for months, began to unfold under last week’s heavy weather. County Road 387 to Beulah remains closed to through traffic due to washouts. Pamela Stevenson, meteorologist with the Pueblo office of the National Weather Service (NWS), confirmed that 4.48 inches of rain fell in that area in 24 hours. A little to the west, Rosita was dumped on with 3.5 inches of rain in the same period. More rain is anticipated for the region. Looking ahead yesterday, Stevenson noted that today’s late morning through afternoon weather will include precipitation. “While we have to keep our eye on it,” she said, “it will not be an event like last week’s; it’s tracking farther north, and will be a drier system than the more recent one.” In the high country, there was a two inch surge of measured snow and water at the South Colony SNOTEL site during the event; as the snow now melts and drives the spring runoffs into the Valley, it is lifting soil moisture content into progressively positive values. The NWS Climate Prediction Center now sees the immediate area as much improved. Still, a certain vigilance remains here. OEM’s Howard “encourages everyone along Hardscrabble Creek to take the potential for post wildfire flash flooding seriously and prepare for future events, similar to, or worse than last week’s storms.” She adds, “Working with Custer County Public Health, we are putting together a preparedness mailing to those living along or near the creek. Grants and other funding are still being sought and we are looking for volunteers to assist with mitigation and debris removal.” Related to the latter, Howard notes that those interested in responding to “the urgent need for volunteers” can enroll at http://volunteer.cusp.ws/?event=co-co-inc-recent-fire-rehabilitation-flood-mitigation. The Coalition for the Upper South Platte is working with Coalitions and Collaboratives, Inc. (Co-Co) on a weekly basis to place volunteer work crews into the burn affected areas. Co-Co can also be reached at 719-966-2445. For now, weather and its ramifications for the county welfare are more than idle conversation; it’s everybody’s business. – W.A. Ewing