A steady soaking | AspenTimes.com

A steady soaking

John Colson
The Aspen Times
Aspen, CO Colorado

ASPEN ” While area officials prepare for floods resulting from the region’s heavy snowpack, upvalley flooding already is occurring in the unlikely locale of the Meadowood subdivision, just west of Aspen.

The subdivision, built in the mid-1960s, is situated between Castle Creek and Maroon Creek roads. According to residents of the subdivision and the head of the nearby Aspen Valley Hospital, the flooding has not been catastrophic, but it has been serious for a few houses. Melting snow has seeped into crawl spaces and basements, and fills a drainage ditch that runs through the hospital’s property.

Neither creeks nor rivers threaten the neighborhoods, just piles of accumulated snow that are melting fast.

Alan Bush, who lives at a low-lying point in the subdivision just below a catchment pond, said he installed a flood monitoring device in the crawl space of his home in case the dam holding back the pond were ever to break.

“We’re the canary. We’re the early warning system,” he said, adding that on April 21, “it went off.”

He said the runoff has filled the catchment pond. This in turn has caused water to percolate up from the saturated ground and seep into foundations, and flow vigorously in ditches that have recently been dug to carry the excess away from the neighborhood.

“We get the Five Trees runoff as well, plus the area above Five Trees,” Bush said, referring to a subdivision built uphill and to the south of Meadowood. “There’s always been runoff, but this year we’re seeing more than ever.”

While a few other homes have been affected, he said, “As far as we know, mine is the only house that has sustained actual damage.” He said his crawl space has been inundated, forcing him to install pumps and an air-exchange system to deal with the formation of potentially harmful mold.

Downhill from Meadowood, in a home owned by the Aspen Valley Hospital District and occupied by the hospital CEO, David Ressler, a trench running through the hospital’s grounds is believed to have contributed to flooding in Ressler’s basement. Ressler said a carpet on the basement floor has been soaked, and he has installed pumps to deal with the inundation.

On the upvalley side of Aspen, Pitkin County Natural Resources Specialist Warren Rider recently visited the Wildwood preschool to talk with officials about the school’s location within the 100-year flood plain of the Roaring Fork River.

The 34-year-old school, located on U.S. Forest Service land a few miles east of Aspen, has experienced flooding in past heavy-snow years. But Rider said he was told that the floodwaters never actually inundated the school. He said that, given the variables involved, including temperature fluctuations, evaporation due to high winds, and how much rain or snow falls on the surrounding mountains on any given day, it is impossible to know whether the school’s 16-acre site will flood this year.

“You can make some comparisons to past years, but it’s tough,” he said.

In general, Rider said, “We’ve had quite a few calls from folks who are concerned,” specifically mentioning Snowmass Creek and the Lazy Glen Mobile Home Park near Basalt.

He invited concerned county residents to call his office, at 920-5070, with any questions about flood preparedness and information.

Other information will be available on the county’s Emergency Management website, found on the Web at http://www.aspenpitkin.com and scrolling through the County Departments menu to the Emergency Management button.

Information on flood preparedness should be up on the website and accessible within a week or so, County Emergency Management Coordinator, Ellen Anderson, said Friday. She said it will contain specific details on what the government can be expected to do, what citizens should do for themselves and other aspects of flood preparedness.

Anderson said that one thing citizens worried about floods can do immediately is to call her at 920-5234, to get a free DVD on how to prepare and use sandbags.

jcolson@aspentimes.com


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