Flood damages buildings in Vail
July 7, 2011
VAIL, Colo. – A combination of rainfall, snowmelt and crumbling debris dams pushed Middle Creek in Vail out of its banks Tuesday, causing minor flooding at two lodges and two town buildings.
The Vail Library was closed Wednesday so crews could clean mud and water from the floors. Town crews were also cleaning mud from the entryway and the ice sheet at Dobson Ice Arena.
Meanwhile, maintenance crews were cleaning the pool and some of the conference rooms at the Evergreen Lodge, as well as the parking garages at the Lodge at Lionshead.
While none of the condos were damaged, guests at the Lodge at Lionshead spent a mostly-sleepless night Tuesday.
“We asked a couple of people to move out of their units, and the cars were moved out of the underground parking garages,” Joy Dunham, of the Lodge at Lionshead, said. “As water continued to flow into the garages, one had water almost knee-deep before the flooding started to subside around midnight.”
At the Evergreen Lodge, general manager Chris Hanen was called back to the lodge just after the flooding started.
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“I couldn’t imagine what I saw,” Hanen said. The creek, which had been running swiftly anyway, had split, and one of the new channels had poured mud and water into the hotel’s pool area.
Crews were hard at work Wednesday, and Hanen said the pool might just re-open for the weekend.
It might be until late in the week or the weekend before the Vail library re-opens. Town Librarian Lori Barnes said crews from SteamMaster are cleaning and sanitizing floors and some ceilings, and checking for damage to walls. But, she said, the book collections seem to be undamaged.
Mike McGee of the Vail Fire Department said the floodwater rose and fell between about 8 p.m. and midnight, as debris dams upstream broke and sent more water down toward town. That water and debris soon clogged debris screens on both sides of Interstate 70, and McGee said town firefighters and police officers were in whitewater rescue gear as they worked to clear the screens. Those crews also had to chain a backhoe to a bigger loader in order to move boulders around the stream channel to slow the water.
“That was really something to see,” Hanen said. “I just can’t say enough about the people from the town – those guys were fantastic.”
While spring and early-summer floods are common along Gore Creek’s tributaries, McGee – a decades-long veteran on the Vail Fire Department – said this is the first time he can remember Middle Creek breaking out of its banks.
And, he added, there’s only so much channel clearing anyone can do to keep debris from damming streams, breaking, and sending torrents of water downhill.
“We live in the mountains, after all,” he said.