Flood maps show where water could go

       If you live or work near Camp, Fountain or South Douglas creeks, it is now possible to know roughly how much (if any) water your home or business will get in the event of a flash flood as a result of the Waldo Canyon Fire burn scar.

A portion of a map shows the confluence of the Fountain and Camp Creek drainages by 31st Street. Red depicts water that could be more than 4 feet deep in a flash flood; yellow is 2-4 feet; green 2 or less.
Westside Pioneer photo

       Preliminary maps have been prepared as part of an analysis by a consultant for area governments and are posted on the web at www.elpasoco.com. The maps show how much - and where - water is likely to accumulate if a rainstorm over the scar drops 1¾ inch in an hour, Patty Baxter, El Paso County's emergency manager, explained at a news conference May 28. Also present were repre-
       sentatives of Colorado Springs and Manitou Springs governments.
       The formal document title is “Preliminary Flash Flood Risk Analysis for the Waldo Canyon Burn Scar.”
       A count of addresses shows just under 200 Pleasant Valley properties that could get drenched - mostly to depths of 2 feet or less but a few with more than 4 feet - in the Camp Creek corridor between Rock Ledge Ranch Historic Site and Colorado Avenue. The historic buildings at Glen Eyrie and Rock Ledge would be unscathed, based on the maps' depiction.
       Along the Fountain Creek corridor, east from Beckers Lane to about 22nd Street, more than 50 private addresses in lower-lying areas would be immersed with varying amounts of water. In addition, the map shows that the described rainstorm would completely flood the Red Rock shopping center, Vermijo Park, the Fountain Creek RV Park, all four business corners at 31st Street and Colorado Avenue, and, east of 25th Street, all of the land between the creek north of Highway 24 and Robinson Street south of it.
       No “user friendly” online map displaying potentially affected addresses along the Fountain Creek corridor from 22nd Street to the confluence with Monument Creek was available at press time. A less detailed but similarly color-coded online map on the county website showed that the flood would affect several homes and businesses along Garner Street, at Eighth Street where the creek goes underneath and also some commercial sites north of Cimarron just west of I-25.
       South Douglas Creek, passing through the Westside in a concrete-lined channel (west of Centennial Boulevard) and in a natural state (mostly in Douglas Creek Open Space) east of Centennial, would have the least amount of private properties in danger of flooding, its map shows. Only six residential properties on Holland Park Boulevard south of the creek are seen as potentially getting up to 2 feet.
       Asked at a press conference which area is the most vulnerable to flash-flooding, Baxter identified the Manitou Springs business district, especially at the confluence of Fountain Creek and the Williams Canyon drainage.
       Overall the preliminary report “is a rough cut to get something to the public quickly so we can plan and so can residents and businesses,” she said. The idea is to have a more precise analysis completed by the end of July.
       Baxter said that 1¾ inches in an hour is not an unusually high amount for this region. But the analysis foresees more problems than in normal years. Because of debris washing down from the burn area, “most of the culverts will be blocked,” she said.
       Some debris removal has occurred on private or local-government lands over the past winter, but (according to previous discussions with local officials) not as much on National Forest Service land, which covers most of the burn area.
       She said that in surveying residents in the drainage corridors, officials were surprised to find area newcomers who were expecting flooding like it is back East, where rivers rise slowly over several days. But a flash flood can be on top of an area within minutes, Baxter said.
       Public meetings on North and South Douglas Creek are scheduled Tuesday, June 4 at 6:30 p.m. at Front Range Alliance Church, 5210 Centennial; and Thursday, June 6 from 1 to 3 p.m. at the El Paso County Citizens Service Center, 1675 W. Garden of the Gods Road. According to Kim Melchor of City Communications, the meetings will share “new information” about the drainage's areas upstream from Garden of the Gods Road.
       Baxter said that for mapping reference, the consultant/local officials used the Burned Area Emergency Response (BAER) report, prepared by a Forest Service crew of specialists after the 18,000-acre Waldo Canyon Fire last summer. The BAER report delineated fire areas with little or no damage (41 percent) moderate severity (40 percent) and high severity (19 percent).
       Other speakers at the news conference urged people to follow weather reports, sign up for “reverse 911” notifications and even to get tetanus shots.
       At one point in the news conference, El Paso County Commissioner Sallie Clark, who also owns a Westside bed-and-breakfast, said she understands the need to get emergency-preparedness information out to the public, but also noted that last summer with the fire “we lost the tourist season,” and asked reporters not to be too sensationalistic in their coverage.
       Asked how that might be done, Clark had no specific proposals, but urged that the topic be handled with “sensitivity.”

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