Rifle-area creeks raging
July 26, 2005
Daniella Mendez anxiously watched Rifle Creek roar through her back yard in the middle of Rifle Monday afternoon.
“I think it’s going to get even higher,” Mendez said as she watched the muddy creek flow almost over its banks. “I’m not going to sleep tonight. I don’t want it to get in my house.”
A flash flood warning was in effect until 8:45 p.m. Monday night for central Garfield County. Heavy rains north of town caused Rifle and Government creeks to burst over their banks. Muddy water flooded two sections of Highway 13 about seven and nine miles north of Rifle.
Two sections of Highway 13 were flooded between mile markers 7 and 9. In the section farther from Rifle, a 75-foot stretch of highway was covered with debris and about 2 inches of mud after a drainage ditch overflowed, unable to handle the volume of runoff. The Colorado Department of Transportation had both areas cleared by about 6 p.m. Monday.
“The crews used to think of this sort of maintenance as routine,” said CDOT spokeswoman Nancy Shanks. “This kind of thing is expected during monsoon season.”
Colorado State Patrol trooper Eric Miller said there was a one-car hydroplaning accident on Highway 13 Monday afternoon. Rescue crews took the driver to Grand River Medical Center in Rifle, where he was treated and released.
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Monsoon season officially started Saturday, July 23, said Brian Avery, a hydrologist with the National Weather Service. Monsoon season is characterized by what Avery calls monsoonal bursts and breaks. In a monsoonal burst, the skies open up and drop significant amounts of rain in short periods of time. A monsoonal break, with little or no precipitation, is expected to start today, Avery said.
Avery said the flooding Monday was caused by a very strong thunderstorm that began building over Government Creek north of Rifle and followed the creek south. “It’s prime flash-flood conditions,” he said.
The National Weather Service issued a flash flood warning in Garfield County Monday evening because there were several thunderstorms in the area producing 1 to 2 inches of rain per hour, said meteorologist Jeff Colton.
Marco Carani, the collection and distribution supervisor with the city of Rifle, watched the water rage near the confluence of Rifle and Government creeks Monday afternoon. He said he thought the creek would stay within its banks, but he was prepared to free debris if it started to dam up the creek.
“This is nothing compared to what it was like three years ago,” Carani said.
Rifle Creek overflowed its banks then, and Mendez remembers being evacuated from her Park Avenue house.
“I really hope that doesn’t happen again,” she said.