Debris flow closes Canyon Creek Road
CANYON CREEK – Ashley Schwartz sat in her silver Honda on the shoulder of Highway 6 at the intersection of Canyon Creek Road, wondering if she would be able to sleep in her own bed Thursday evening.Schwartz lives about four miles up Canyon Creek Road near where the New Castle Fire burned 1240 acres in June. Thursday evening around 6 p.m. heavy rains caused multiple debris flows, closing the road to residents.”We can’t get in or out,” she said.”Do you think we’ll be able to go home tonight?” Schwartz asked a Garfield County Deputy.”It may take a couple of hours,” was his reply.Schwartz’s boyfriend, Jared Stueber, was on the other end of Canyon Creek Road, blocked by debris as well, she said.Other residents started showing up, inquiring about the situation with little comfort.”Basically we had a heavy storm cell come through, bringing down mud, large rocks and timbers down the hillsides,” said Garfield County Sheriff Lou Vallario.A meeting Monday night at the old Canyon Creek School house warned residents of the potential for debris flows caused by rains. At that meeting, Vallario, Dennis Davidson of the Natural Resource Conservation Service, and officials with the Bureau of Land Management gathered to inform residents of a mitigation plan to reduce damage to their homes if a situation like this occurred.The plan involved lining much of the Canyon Creek Road with “Jersey” barriers, large concrete barriers used in highway construction, to divert water, runoff and debris flows from homes in the Canyon Creek drainage area.However, work was awaiting funding approval that was expected to come by week’s end, according to Davidson.”We were hoping to get the barriers up before the rains hit,” Vallario said. “We haven’t had any rain for two months and now it has to rain right in this spot. Now we just have to go forward and deal with it as it comes.”Vallario said initial inspection revealed mud and debris about half a mile up the Canyon Creek Road, and that it was “impassable.” Vallario said that he witnessed a man on an ATV that got stuck attempting to cross the flow.”That made my decision not to try and cross it,” Vallario said.More than one dozen homes were determined to be in potential danger at Monday’s meeting, according to detailed mitigation plans devised by the NRCS. How many of those homes sustained damage, if any, and if the road was cleared and residents were allowed home Thursday night was unknown as of press time.According to the US Geological Survey Web site, http://www.USGS.gov, post-fire debris flows can be generated over longer time periods, accompanied by root decay and loss of soil strength due to the destruction and stability of vegetation by the fire.Westbound Interstate 70 was also closed for a short time Thursday afternoon between mile markers 107 and 110 due to standing water and mud.
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