Deluge sets off midvalley mudslide |

Deluge sets off midvalley mudslide

Chad Abraham

A powerful thunderstorm Sunday evening swelled local creeks and caused a 4-mile-long mudslide in the midvalley.The Aspen airport received more than a half-inch of rain in about 90 minutes, according to National Weather Service figures.”That’s quite a bit for this area,” said forecaster Ellen Heffernan. “If it falls pretty quickly, that’s very significant.”A mudslide was reported on West Sopris Creek Road outside Emma around 7 p.m. Sunday, according to Brian Pettet, Pitkin County public works director. The road was impassable as nearly the entire length of the creek slope washed away. The storm brought “an amazing amount of water in a short amount of time,” Pettet said.The water, mud and debris slid down the road until a significant part of it ended up in a homeowner’s garage. The man asked for and received sandbags in an attempt to protect his residence, Pettet said.”The [creek] is pretty much full and all of our culverts are full,” he said. “The drainage system that was in place was interrupted by debris, so a lot of water was running down the road and entering this gentleman’s driveway on the lower side of the road. The road became the drainage ditch.”The National Weather Service issued a flash flood and mudslide warning for Garfield County through midnight Monday. Heffernan said northwest Colorado was getting drenched again yesterday, though local authorities reported no additional flooding problems as of press time. Government Creek near Rifle has also seen flooding (see related story).Pitkin County was not under a flood watch Monday, but “we’re prepared to notify people,” said Sheriff Bob Braudis. “People in the flood plain are well aware to watch the major streams.”The flooding danger of the Roaring Fork River through Aspen and other creeks near town has pretty much passed for the year, Braudis said.County road crews spent Monday clearing West Sopris Creek Road of the estimated 300 to 500 cubic yards of material that made up the mudslide – “and they’re not done yet. They’re still hauling material out of there,” Pettet said Monday afternoon.”We’ve had a full crew and dump trucks running all day. That’s just to get the road established,” he said, praising road crews for their swift response. “The next effort will be to get the drainage system in place and that’ll hopefully take place [today]. But we have additional thunderstorms coming in.”Heffernan said a high pressure system that baked the West for several days has lifted. In its wake is a southerly flow laden with moisture. Some of it is probably due to Hurricane Emily hitting the Gulf of Mexico. But this also monsoon season.Heffernan said today will likely be drier, but more wet weather is expected by the weekend.Pettet said the East Sopris Creek area also saw some flooding and mudslides Monday.”If I lived close to a creek or a river, I would certainly have on hand sandbags and the ability to fill them,” he said. “You get one large storm that’s locked up into a valley like that and you can get some pretty significant flash-flood events.”Chad Abraham’s e-mail address is

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