By Beth Dodd:
A severe flash flood worse than the one in 1999 caused devastation in Manitou Springs on Friday evening August 9th after 1.3 inches of rain fell on the southern end of the Waldo Canyon burn scar in approximately 30 minutes between 5:00 and 6:00 p.m. Blackened water, mud and large debris flooded both Fountain Creek and Williams Canyon Creek, poring into Manitou Springs. Rain is predicted again on Saturday and there is potential for more flooding.
On Highway 24 about 20 cars in the westbound lanes were trapped by the rushing waters. Video clips online show cars being swept along like toy boats. One man, Glenn Dotson, 70, of Cascade, exited his car in the midst of the flood. He was knocked down, but was rescued by another driver. Another man, unidentified as of Saturday morning, was not so fortunate. He was discovered dead on the highway underneath a large amount of debris around 11:30 p.m. on Friday evening. He was not apparently in or near a vehicle. As of Saturday morning, the uphill lanes of Highway 24 remained closed while two front end loaders and a trio of dump trucks worked to clear the debris, which is piled to the top of the center divider in some areas. The downhill side of the road is open with a single lane in each direction. Watch for Teller County Nixle updates, as they will likely announce when the road is fully open again. The eastbound exit from Highway 24 into the east end in Manitou Ave looked to be undercut in another video and may require repairs before being reopened, but this is unconfirmed.
In Manitou Springs, both Manitou Ave and Canon Ave were impacted by the flood waters with mud, trees, boulders, and stranded cars in the streets. Thee injuries have been confirmed by the Manitou Springs Police. One was a woman who suffered a broken leg while escaping from her home, which was completely destroyed. The Fountain Valley Swift Water Rescue team came to her aid. A man in the creek was rescued by local residents who fished him out using a power extension cord as a lifeline. Another individual was reported missing, but has apparently now been located. The wall of Fountain Creek at the edge of the patio at Adams Mountain Café looked like a waterfall as the flood waters gushed into the creek. An unconfirmed report says that the popular restaurant has been damaged inside with floodwater breaking through the windows and into the dining room. The Cliff House nearby remains open, although the streets outside are a mess.
The Craft Lager Beer Festival that was planned in Memorial Park for today will not happen as scheduled as the park is closed and the pre-staged equipment was lost. The Gazette reports that the event organizers are searching for a possible alternate location to hold the event on Sunday, and beer fans should check the festival website for more information.
Access to Manitou Springs remains restricted this morning as law enforcement works to ensure that the town is secure as damage assessment and clean up begins. Police were checking ID’s before allowing people into town on Friday night while emergency workers conducted a house to house search looking for people in need of aid. Fifteen people spent the night at the emergency shelter at the First Congregational Church on Pawnee Ave in Manitou.