Soggy Aspen tries to dry out
July 30, 2006
City crews lined sandbags in front of driveways and around basement windows Monday as Aspen girded for a possible third-straight day of heavy rain.More storms were predicted last night and today, as workers cleared culverts and other drainage sites of debris leftover from Sunday night’s mudslide on Smuggler Mountain.Buildings flooded from Hunter Creek to the Aspen Club, and one resident of an employee-housing unit on hard-hit Williams Ranch Drive said her basement continued to flood Monday afternoon.Sunday’s storm dropped about as much rain in 15 minutes as fell in all of July 2005. This July was the wettest in Aspen in at least four years with more than 2.5 inches of rain.Brian Pettet, Pitkin County public works director, said crews also cleared a mudslide Sunday night between Woody Creek and Lenado. On Smuggler Mountain, workers were trying to realign drainage streams into paths away from homes.Installing berms to prevent future mudslides “is something we’ll look at after this is said and done. A lot of times when this happens, it can point to a problem area,” Pettet said.Other times, “there’s little man can do. It’s a matter of the reality of living in the mountains and the effects of gravity over time,” he said. “I’d like to ensure it doesn’t happen again. But time and time again, Mother Nature proves superior to our ability to manage her.”The shock of seeing so much water pour into their basements dissolved into exhaustion and anger for some homeowners.
Williams Ranch Drive resident Michael Shandling said this was the third time his home has flooded. He blamed the developer of the homes, which were offered by the city in 1996 under its highest-priced category of affordable housing.
“This lot is below-grade. And the developer was notified that it was. They never did anything,” he said.Neighbor Martha Meagher estimated she slept for five minutes Sunday night after her basement flooded and her cat nearly drowned. The damage is not covered by her insurance, she learned Monday.”They said even if you have flood insurance you wouldn’t be covered,” Meagher said.Shandling said homeowners may pursue federal flood insurance coverage. But Meagher was unsure if a permanent solution can be found.”I’m not an engineer, I have no idea. All I know is they’re going to have to figure it out,” she said. “I can’t have a swimming pool in my basement.”
She gestured toward her neighbor’s home. “How are they going to use their driveway?” It was covered in mud, and sandbags lined the front near the street. The bags were preventing, for now, a repeat of what happened Sunday, when water streamed across the neighbor’s driveway and into Meagher’s basement.A giant Roto-Rooter truck, carpet cleaning and landscaping vehicles, and a city dump truck with sand clogged Williams Ranch Drive on Monday.Elsewhere, at least one unit at the Hunter Creek Condominiums sustained flood damage, and another carpet cleaner van was parked on the Cooper Street mall, cleaning up the Goldmasters jewelry store.The Aspen Club’s spa area flooded, as did The Aspen Times’ advertising department.National Weather Service forecaster Jim Pringle said radar measurements for the Aspen area during Sunday’s storm showed at least an inch of rain fell, perhaps more. And most of that amount likely fell in the deluge’s first 15 minutes, he said. An inch of rain in an hour is enough to trigger flash-flood warning from the weather service.
Meagher said she had heard more storms are on the way. But she refused to give up hope, even as a crew from a disaster restoration company emerged periodically from the basement with mud-coated cabinets, drawers and other objects that were strewn across her garage and driveway.”I’m just going to trust that everything’s going to work out. The way I look at it is, How is this going to make my life better?” she said. “Things happen in life, and there’s always a silver lining somewhere.”Just deal with what’s in front of me, that’s all.”Chad Abraham’s e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org