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Basalt trailer residents worried about flooding

Scott CondonThe Aspen TimesAspen, CO Colorado

BASALT About 75 nerve-racked midvalley residents, mostly from the two trailer parks in the heart of Basalt, met with town officials Wednesday night to learn how to protect themselves and their property in case of major flooding this spring.You shouldnt be scared yet. Maybe in May, Basalt Fire Chief Scott Thompson told the crowd, many of whom needed a Spanish translation.Thompson told the anxious audience it is impossible to predict if there will be major flooding during typical high runoff from late May to mid-June. The weather will play a major factor.The Roaring Fork Mobile Home Park and the adjacent Pan & Fork Mobile Home Park traditionally experience some level of annual flooding, said Thompson, who lived at the Roaring Fork park in the mid-1980s. There are 50 tenants in the Roaring Fork Mobile Home Park and about 37 in the Pan & Fork. He assured the crowd that law-enforcement officials will check bridges at night during the runoff season. Residents in low-lying areas along the rivers will be notified by reverse 911 telephone calls, emergency broadcasts and even police knocking on doors if they need to evacuate.We never plan for you to go to sleep and be in a dangerous situation, Thompson said.Emergency response agencies have discussed for weeks how to respond to a flood. They are taking extra precautions because the snowpack in the Roaring Fork Basin was 45 percent above average as of Wednesday.An evacuation center will be established at the Eagle County government building in El Jebel in case people are forced from their homes, Thompson said. The Red Cross then will guide people to various shelters.The fire chief advised the residents to call insurance agents to inquire about flood coverage. He warned that there have been reports of unscrupulous agents who have been approaching people. He advised homeowners to call an agent and to avoid people who contact them.Thompson also advised homeowners to take steps themselves to protect their property, such as buying sandbags and removing a couple of panels from their trailer skirts to let water flow through rather than build up.David Fiore, president of Western Peak, the owner of the Roaring Fork Mobile Home Park, told his residents that he will acquire sand and place it in strategic spots around the park. The management will place some sand for the benefit of the entire park, but residents are responsible for building berms around their own trailers, he said.Adrianna, a Latina who has lived at the Pan & Fork for nine years, said after the meeting that she is nervous about the flooding potential. A few inches of ground water appears in her yard and driveway every spring, she said. About one inch of water is already standing this year and its not from melting snow, she said.Adrianna said the meeting was helpful because it gave her a better understanding of what is going on. However, it didnt exactly calm her nerves.I feel better, but Im scared now, she said.Laurie Meiners has lived right on the bank of the Roaring Fork River at the other mobile home park since 1980. There is nothing scarier than going to sleep at night during high runoff and wondering what the river is going to do, she said.Meiners recalled that floodwater has been up to knee high in some years. Flooding affected the park nearly every spring in the early and mid-1980s as well as 1995. She was once ordered by Pitkin County sheriffs deputies to evacuate.Deborah Farrell, a resident of the Roaring Fork since 1986, said she doubts that trailers at rivers edge can get insurance at a reasonable rate. She said her trailer is probably secure because it is on higher ground along a loop farthest from the river. She is concerned about neighbors like Meiners.The key to avoiding a flood is taking panels off the trailer skirt and establishing paths for the water through fences on surrounding property, according to Farrell. I think well be OK, she said.Basalt resident Bud Eylar, a former engineer for Pitkin County government, expressed concerns over potential flooding at the east or upper Basalt Bypass Bridge on Highway 82. If debris gets caught under that bridge, water will flow in a matter of minutes into the South Side area of town, he warned. He inquired about Basalts ability to evacuate people at short notice.The Colorado Department of Transportation is attempting to address the flood potential at that location. It is seeking a permit from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to remove 1,500 cubic yards of rock and sand upstream of the bridge to improve flow.Thompson said a permit hasnt been issued yet, but local governments have offered to write letters in support of the idea.While that waiting game might be addressed, the one with Mother Nature will continue for at least two months.scondon@aspentimes.com

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