Torrential rains left the Colorado Springs area in a state of emergency after floods threatened many of the homes and businesses located near Manitou Springs and throughout the city last week.
The downpours felt all across the Colorado Springs area last Thursday and Friday have left in their wake a city desperate to rebuild in preparation for the next storm.
The area hit hardest by the rain was Manitou Springs, where crucial roads into the city were still closed as late as Tuesday. The barren, hardened land left behind in the aftermath of last summer’s disastrous Waldo Canyon fire is responsible for much of the damage caused by the rain, sending burnt debris rocketing down Ute Pass.
El Paso County has initially assessed that flood damage from recent storms will cost $1.85 million to repair.
“I want to stress this is just an initial and approximate assessment,” El Paso County Engineer Andre Brackin said in a press release. “These numbers could change.”
Damaged roads include Upper Gold Camp Road in Cheyenne Canyon where the historic dirt trail slid down the mountain between tunnels one and two.
Farley McDonough, owner of Manitou’s popular Adam’s Mountain Cafe, had to close her doors to customers for over three weeks due to deteriorating conditions around the building. However, it was the long-term effects of the recent catastrophes that seemed to be her primary concern.
“We’re still being affected,” McDonough said. “What I’m worried about is the future of my cafe.”
Amongst many other concerns, McDonough said she worried that the construction needed to rebuild the damaged infrastructure in Manitou could become a turn-off for potential customers, an understandable propensity for a any owner whose business is located in a town who’s website advertises it as a “picturesque mountain community.”
To make matters worse for McDonough and the entire Manitou business community, early reconstruction estimates are primed to take up to six months.
Now in her 13th year as owner of Adam’s Mountain Cafe, McDonough says she’s never seen anything like rain that has battered the state of Colorado over the past few weeks.
“We’re hearing it could go on for the next eight to ten years,” she said.
Business owners weren’t the only ones struggling to navigate the flooding streets of Manitou. Many residents were unable to return to their homes Thursday night as flash flood warnings closed many of the roads leading into the Manitou area.
One such resident was visiting Colorado College Professor Neal Rappaport.
“The roads were blocked because of the flash flooding warnings,” Rappaport lamented after the rains stranded him following class earlier that day.
Rappaport voiced the obvious need for immediate reconstruction, claiming it would be a necessary annoyance.
“There are pot holes all over the place,” he said.
Kenny Quintana, a Highway Maintenance Supervisor for the Colorado Department of Transport, admitted that most of the damage was indeed caused by the lack of vegetation left behind from the Waldo Canyon fire.
“Think of it this way: before the land was like a golf course, able to absorb the water and prevent this type of damage,” he said. “Now it’s like pavement.”
Kenny stated that the CDOT doesn’t have any reason to believe that there were any lapses in preparation.
“We’ve had rains like this before,” he said. “It was all the fire.”
The rains also pushed many local utility services toward unsustainable capacities. Gas lines have been exposed all around the city, particularly near Flintridge Drive in northeast Colorado Springs, where a sinkhole estimated to be 40 feet wide and 25 feet deep has opened beneath a driveway.
Though the expansion of the sinkhole has begun to slow, Steve Berry, spokesman for Colorado Springs Utilities told the Gazette that “if the sinkhole continues to cave in, there’s no telling what could happen.”
Beyond the Manitou area, fast-flowing streams and flooding in the broader Colorado Springs area are thought to have caused the death of an unknown man in the West Fork of Sand Creek late Thursday afternoon.
The Colorado Office of Emergency Management reported that the unidentified man was the second person killed in El Paso County and the eighth killed in Colorado since the flooding that began last Wednesday.
The unknown male is also the fourth victim of flooding in the Pike’s Peak area since the beginning of August earlier this year.
Though the dark clouds are less frequently emerging from beyond the mountains, reconstructing in the wake of the floods is going to take more than clear skies and sunshine.
On Saturday, the Colorado Springs Office of Emergency Management paired up with volunteers to fill sandbags that will be used to stem future flooding away from the Manitou area.
“It could have been worse,” McDonough warned. “We need to be prepared for the next time.”