‘This was a really big show’
PITKIN COUNTY ” Lightning strikes, hail, mudslides and flash floods hammered the middle Roaring Fork Valley when a thunderstorm parked there for about one hour Monday afternoon.
“This was really a big show. This is one of the more severe [outbursts] I’ve ever seen,” said veteran Pitkin County Deputy Sheriff Ann Stephenson while she staffed a barricade on Lower River Road last night.
The road was closed about 1 mile west of the junction with Upper River Road because of a mudslide. The hillside got saturated and slid, Stephenson said. One vehicle, a Mercedes Benz car, got stuck in the mud. Heavy equipment from the Pitkin County Road and Bridge crew was clearing the debris.
Deputies and the Basalt Fire Department responded to an emergency call of a possible gas leak at a home that was flooded at 1350 Lower River Road. No leak was found but the saturated ground created flooding, Stephenson said.
Another mudslide struck about 12 miles up Woody Creek Road, just below Lenado. The road and bridge crew was sending a crew as soon as it opened Lower River Road, Stephenson said.
Highway 82 had a few inches of muddy water flowing across it at mile marker 30 from Watson Divide shortly after 5 p.m., but the road was never closed. Commuter traffic was already going slow, so that probably helped prevent accidents, Stephenson said.
She witnessed bizarre conditions through Snowmass Canyon shortly after 5 p.m.
“When I drove upvalley it looked like it snowed,” she said. Muddy water cascaded over the cement retaining walls along the highway in Snowmass Canyon, she noted.
The National Weather Service office in Grand Junction issued a flood advisory for the midvalley at 5:39 p.m. The slow moving thunderstorm had the ability to dump one inch of rain per hour, the advisory said.
Stephenson didn’t doubt it.
“It was pretty intense here for a while,” she said.
The flooding turned the Roaring Fork and Fryingpan rivers into muddy torrents.
Basalt police warned anglers to get out of the Roaring Fork River at 6:30 p.m. after other officials warned of rising water levels farther upstream.
The Basalt and El Jebel areas were treated to an electrical show as sharp lightning and loud thunder struck from about 5:10 to 5:45 p.m. A house was struck by lightning on Sunrise Lane on Missouri Heights, according to Basalt Fire Chief Scott Thompson.
The strike knocked out the fire alarm system, he said, but there was no fire.
The fire department also monitored a fire started by a lightning strike on Basalt Mountain above The Wilds condominiums. Thompson said the strike wasn’t going to pose a threat because of all the rain, but officials were going to monitor it again
“We needed the rain. Not all at once,” Thompson said.
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