El Paso County authorities held the first in a series of five public meetings Monday night to help inform and educate residents about the greater flash flooding threat from the Waldo Canyon fire.
More than 100 people gathered at Ute Pass Elementary School in Green Mountain Falls. Colorado Springs authorities have held similar public meetings since last summer, but El Paso County authorities decided to wait until spring, which is closer to when flash floods are most likely to begin.
"We want people to identify their own properties, see where their flood risk is, and then learn how to prepare for that in an emergency," said county commissioner Sallie Clark. "Be ready to get up, or get out."
Monday night's meeting, along with a meeting scheduled Tuesday night, are intended to help residents along Fountain Creek and U.S. 24, in the Ute Pass communities of Green Mountain Falls, Chipita Park and Cascade. Those areas received damage from several flash floods last summer and fall, including a severe flood on July 30.
Authorities are asking affected residents to be alert to weather conditions and practice an evacuation plan.
"Don't wait to be told to evacuate," said Clark. "Use your own common sense and get out if you feel you're in danger."
Authorities told the audience at the school meeting that it will take around 30 minutes for runoff to drain from the mountains to the bottom of the canyons and the creek. Also, a flash flood can last as long as three hours after rain stops, authorities said.
A drive along Chipita Park Road shows the impacts of, and changes after, previous floods. One home is surrounded by large concrete blocks. Another has new sod after its back yard flooded. Several barriers protect the school. But several yards remain buried in mud, and the creek bed is lined with debris.
A second community meeting for the Ute Pass area is scheduled for 6:30 p.m. Tuesday at the school.
A meeting for the Pleasant Valley neighborhood will be held at 6 p.m. Thursday at Glen Eyrie Castle Great Hall, 3820 North 30th St. in Colorado Springs.
Two meetings are scheduled for Manitou Springs: Monday, April 15 at 6:30 p.m. and Wednesday, April 24 at 6:30 p.m. Both will be held at Manitou Springs City Hall, 606 Manitou Ave.
In a related matter, homeowners affected by the wildfire or who live in high flood-risk areas of west Colorado Springs can receive free sandbags. The sandbags will be available Saturday, April 13 from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. at the Verizon Wireless building, 2424 Garden of the Gods Rd.