(related front page story)
by Rick Langenberg:
Flood mitigation work in our region warrants a B-plus, but flood communications are still a lingering problem, with a grade of D-plus. In any case, it’s time for a flood party.
These are the sentiments of many residents and out-of-town visitors, as they endure another summer of flash flood warnings, regular Hwy. 24 closures and more question marks. Maybe flood games are in order, or possibly we need to organize a grand Teller County Flood Festival and setup a stage along the highway.
This scenario hit home again late Saturday afternoon, with huge traffic tie-ups in Woodland Park that lasted for several hours, with some residents wondering if they should just depart from their vehicle and huff and puff down the Ute Trail, next to the Crystola Roadhouse. Actually, the Crystola Roadhouse ended up as the big winner, serving as the disaster headquarters. The big losers were out-of-town folks whom searched for alternatives, and could be found desperately eying maps. A few unfortunate folks scrambled towards Canon City, after the road had reopened.
And then a group of enthusiastic musicians entertained all the frustrated motorists near Crystola with a little mini-performance on U.S. Hwy. 24 that almost mimicked the days of the Summer of Love. Well, now, it’s become the Summer of Floods. But it’s not all bad news on the flood front. A few local restaurants and eateries, such as the Ute Inn, reported record crowds during the great floods and extended highway closures of last Saturday afternoon.
It’s amazing what a short, torrential rainfall can do now to our region, with traffic jams that rivaled a scene from New York City or San Francisco.
This latest flood fiasco, which shut down the Pass between Manitou Springs and Green Mountain Falls Saturday for at least three-plus hours, was especially bad this time due to a mud slide near Chipita Park. Plus, the bombardment of eight-tenths of rain in less than an hour didn’t help matters, not to mention a serious debris flow near Cascade. As a result, east-bound motorists couldn’t really reach Green Mountain Falls, which usually provides a temporary escape from the traffic morass.
As a result, many vehicles suffered from overheating and many motorists lost their tempers.
Kudos to the Teller County Sheriff’s Department, who at least tried to keep people informed as to what was occurring and in giving probable updates on the road reopening. And once the Pass was reopened, between 6:30 and 7 pm, traffic cruised right down the highway in a business as usual fashion.
But again, this situation further demonstrates the importance of reopening Rampart Range Road or establishing a better communication system to alert motorists what to expect, or to try to keep them off the main highway. Those who took the alternative route to Crystola Roadhouse from Fairview or through the Safeway parking lot in Woodland fared the best and could at least calm their traffic-plagued nerves with a few brews.
So far, the mitigation preparation work has worked, especially for flood-ravaged Manitou Springs. The Fountain Creek beds have also hung in there, especially during the big rains in Green Mountain Falls. And with a new maintenance director in GMF, the roads are hanging tough.
But there needs to be a better way to assist motorists during these flood warnings, even if involves setting up places for them to hang out. Either that, or cite people for doing rain dances, or start writing letters to the U.S. Forest Service, demanding a reopening of Rampart Range Road.
This lack of response from the U.S. Forest Service regarding these issues is just unacceptable.
What is really scary is that Saturday’s rampage wasn’t really that long of a storm. Just wait to a few more storms.
So bring on the flood parties. (photo by Colorado State Patrol.)