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Flash floods cause damage, rouse residents in Arboles

Staff Writer

Three flash floods have hit near Arboles in the last three weeks, and some residents of the area are not pleased.

Beyond washing debris and silt onto the roads, reports have surfaced of homes flooding, mud damaging floors, and insurance not covering the damage.

The first flash flood hit July 10 and was the largest of the three. That storm left a large amount of debris, including boulders 2 to 3 feet in diameter, in the road in the area of County Road 500 and Andrew’s Lane, in the Aqua Vista subdivision near Navajo Lake.

Since, rain from two other storms have also flooded the same area. The most recent hit last Sunday and left six inches of silt on the road.

But what can be done to avoid future damage to the area, and what should be done?

Two 48-inch culverts are in place in the area, which, according to Archuleta County Public Works Director Ken Feyen, meet county standards and are built to accommodate up to 200 cubic feet per second (cfs), which is more than a 25-year storm level.

The recent events, Feyen noted, were larger than that, previously calling the first “significantly larger.”

But, Feyen said, having several large storms in the same year above the 25-year level is not uncommon. Still, he said, over hundreds of years, it will likely average out to one large storm about every 25 years.

And it would take direction from the Archuleta Board of County Commissioners to deviate from the county standard, Feyen said.

That direction, though, might be on its way. At a Tuesday morning work session, the BoCC discussed the situation and directed County Administrator Jesse Smith to discuss with Feyen how to alleviate the damage issues. As of Wednesday, there was no report of that discussion happening.

But, Feyen said, caution must be used when changing the drainage structure of the area.

“You have to be careful to not push the problem farther down the street,” Feyen said.

Following the area’s first flash flood, Feyen explained the county’s process for cleaning up the debris.

After a flash flood hits a road and county crews are made aware, crews and equipment are dispatched to the area to remove debris from the roadway, Feyen explained.

“That’s about all we can do until it dries out some,” Feyen said, calling the aftermath a “quagmire.”

Once the area is dry, Feyen said crews will remove silt, open ditches, clean out culverts, and reshape and regrade the area.

If anyone sees that a flash flood has left debris on a county road, he or she should notify the county by calling Road and Bridge at 264-5660 or, after working hours, by calling Archuleta County Combined Dispatch at 731-2160.

This story was posted on August 1, 2013.