Heavy rains leave a mark on region, Westside

       The region was mostly drying out this week after several days of nearly incessant rain that finally let up late Sept. 15.

Swollen Camp Creek overwhelmed the main Rock Ledge Ranch footbridge, forcing it to close just before the Folk Art Festival (see STORY, PHOTO.)
Andy Morris photo

       On the Westside, the unusual weather forced the cancellation of one annual outdoor event (the Cemetery Crawl - see Page 4) and the shortenening of another (the Folk Art Festival - see story).
       Detailed assessments of flood damage are still filtering in, but stormwater officials say that two Westside drainages already identified with burn-area vulnerabilities (Camp Creek and South Douglas Creek) will likely need even more fixes now.
       In the Douglas Creek Open Space through Holland Park, flooding washed out a neighborhood trail crossing above three 42-inch-wide culverts that were just installed in the creek last November north of Vondelpark Drive between Holland Park Boulevard and Chestnut Street. The Sinton Trail paralleling the creek was closed.
       As for Camp Creek, “we're waiting for the water to go down so we can see the extent of the damage,” Tim Mitros, city stormwater engineering manager, summarized this week.
       One known Camp Creek problem is at Rock Ledge Ranch Historic Site, where two footbridges were compromised in the Sept. 12 rains (but ranch manager Andy Morris has since repaired one of them).
       The Foothills Trail, which follows Camp Creek through the Garden of the Gods and Rock Ledge, was closed.
       During the height of the storm, some major roads were barricaded, with Manitou Springs virtually shut off to the world for much of Sept. 11 and 12. Highway 24 was even closed to westbound traffic the night of Sept. 12 west of Eighth Street and Colorado Avenue west of 21st. The low area on 19th Street north of Uintah, which has flooded in the past, had a few feet of water on the 12th. The city detention pond a block north of there, which is almost always dry, was full of water for a few days.

The waterfall on the Section 16 Waterfall Trail lived up to its name with the recent rains.
Travers Jordan photo

       Although Fountain Creek through the Westside mostly stayed in its banks, El Paso County officials said the flooding damaged an abutment at the Golden Lane Bridge (which lead into the RV park south of the Taco Bell), with an estimated repair cost of $100,000.
       Just to the south, Cheyenne Creek flooded. Part of Cheyenne Road was still closed at press time, as well as North Cheyenne Canyon. The city has opened a Disaster Assistance Center at Cañon Elementary School, 1201 W. Cheyenne Road.
       At a press conference Sept. 17, Bret Waters, director of the city's Office of Emergency Management, set a “conservative” cost of $10 million in damages in the city as a whole.
       Many residents, including people on the Westside, reported problems with flooded basements.
       The good news was that things weren't worse. While northern Colorado was hit by what's now being termed a “thousand-year” storm, the Westside's main drainages “held up fairly well through the storms,” Mitros summarized.
       The region also seemed to catch a break in terms of where the hardest downpours were. Stormwater specialists had produced documentation this summer showing potentially horrific flooding if rain fell heavily on the denuded area left over from the 2012 Waldo Canyon Fire (referred to as the “burn scar”). As it turned out, the worst of the recent rains fell near Fort Carson, according to Thomas Magnuson, a meterologist with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Adminis-tration (NOAA), while the the burn scar was relatively spared.
       Improvements to both the South Douglas and Camp Creek drainages have been in the works for months. A public open house on plans for South Douglas was scheduled at the Citizens Service Center Sept. 19 from 4 to 7 p.m.
       A consultant was recently hired for Camp Creek (Wilson & Company). Preliminary meetings are being held with leaders from entities in that area (one of them being the Pleasant Valley Neighborhood Association), with a public meeting to be scheduled in the near future, Mitros said.
       An unexpected upside of the recent rains is visible at the man-made upper pond at Red Rock Canyon Open Space, whose water level had been dropping steadily because of several drought years since 1999. As recently as late August, the pond had well below half of its former volume, and the Friends of Red Rock Canyon had expressed concern about wildlife in that area losing a source of water. But this week, after the recent rains, the pond was full to the top, with water overflowing its spillway and into the pond below it.

LEFT: A truck rooster-tails along partially flooded Robinson Street. RIGHT: A washout on Douglas Creek beside the Sinton Trail.
Travers Jordan photo (left); Westside Pioneer photo (right)

The Red Rock Canyon upper pond... ABOVE: During the Aug. 17 event celebrating the 10-year anniversary of the city’s buying the open space, the pond’s water level was far below the spillway. BELOW: This week, after the heavy rains, the pond is full, with water lapping over the spillway. Note trees that were dry in photo at left, now immersed in the pond.
Westside Pioneer photos

Westside Pioneer article