Ute Pass hit by second major mudflow

Heavy storms Monday wash debris from Waldo Canyon burn scar

POSTED: 10:37 PM MDT Jul 30, 2012    UPDATED: 03:22 PM MDT Aug 21, 2012 
WEST EL PASO COUNTY, Colo. -

Cleanup likely will continue Tuesday after ash and mud flows through towns along Ute Pass on Monday.

At around 5:30 p.m. Monday, the first in a series of thunderstorms moved over the burn scar created by the recent Waldo Canyon wildfire.  The storms dumped heavy rainfall on an area that no longer can retain water -- sending flows of mud, ash and debris downhill.

The first area impacted was U.S. 24 between Cascade and Crystola.  The flows blocked traffic in both directions for much of the evening, with the westbound lanes bearing the brunt of the impact.

Crews detoured evening rush hour traffic around the area while heavy machinery worked to clear the highway by midnight.

William Gerke, a nearby resident, came out to witness the scene, and recalled a similar event three weeks ago.

"This is worse than last time, because it didn't come down this far last time," he said.  "Our drainage on the next block over, is filled.  So (the flow) is not draining through at all.  It's just running down.  We just had our driveways fixed a couple of days ago, and it's already no good any more."

The flows then moved below the highway along Fountain Creek, to the towns of Green Mountain Falls, Chipita Park and Cascade.  The liquid ash and mud in the creek overflowed, nearly flooding the interior of a home.

"We basically tried to figure out how the water was flowing, and see where we could re-route it by using whatever we could find," said Michelle Hefner, who helped friends and relatives keep the flow out of her parents' home.   

"We had (ash and mud) on us three weeks ago," she said.  "I had a rash (from it).  We have to have a good attitude because we know this is going to happen again -- and for how long, we don't know."

Hefner said affected residents must determine how to prevent or minimize damage from future flows.