Rivers turn red, mud closes road
A mudslide closed Fryingpan Road briefly Tuesday afternoon and turned the Fryingpan and Roaring Fork rivers into flowing ribbons of dark red.
The mud poured down a slope along the road about one mile outside of Basalt, near mile marker two. It closed the road completely at about 4:30 p.m., but an Eagle County crew soon had one lane open.
The slide came down after an hour of heavy rain. An Eagle County road crew member, who was working on a project near the slide, said he heard the rumble of the mud and rocks coming down. He said it trapped a car against some trees on the river side of the road. The crew pulled the vehicle out with machinery at the site.
“It’s a big muddy mess,” said Fryingpan Valley resident Paul Andersen. “It filled the road waist-deep with mud, logs and rocks.”
Andersen said the downpour, highlighted by thunder and lightening, triggered flood-like conditions in many of the creeks and gullies of the lower Fryingpan Valley, but none like the gully near mile marker two.
“I’ve never seen it flood before,” he said.
Graders were clearing the mud from the road as commuters were heading up the valley late Tuesday afternoon. But the rivers weren’t going to be cleared so easily – the mud slid into the Fryingpan and the Fryingpan pumped it into the Roaring Fork.
From Seven Castles Creek (at about mile marker 4) on down, the Fryingpan was “absolutely red,” Andersen said Tuesday evening. “It’s as red as can be right now.”
After a huge mudslide turned the Fryingpan red last summer, water officials increased the flow from Ruedi Reservoir on the upper river to wash out the sediment and save fish and their habitat.
Yesterday’s rain, and the local monsoon weather pattern of late, also triggered mudslides Tuesday afternoon on East Sopris Creek Road in Pitkin County.
“Within a mile, it looks like we’ve had three different debris flows and they have filled culvert ditches and made a mess of the road,” Brian Pettet, the county’s deputy director of public works, reported from the scene Tuesday evening. “The only place the mud and rocks have to flow is on the road, and that’s what has happened.”
The three slides never rendered the road impassable, Pettet said, but it did make a sloppy mess of things. Road crews used heavy equipment to clean up the road temporarily yesterday, and plan to finish the task today, he said.
“It’s not a significant event – the guys have handled it pretty well – but it was hazardous and the potential is there for something more significant because of the saturation levels on those hillsides,” Pettet said. “When you have these monsoonal flows, they can get stuck in these little areas and the hillsides just can’t handle it.”
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