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Weekend storm leaves big cleanup job in Otero County

Trees, limbs, branches fill streets, yards

OTERO COUNTY, Colo. - People in Otero County were glad to see good weather Monday -- not to enjoy it, but to clean up considerable damage from the weekend storm.

The mess of fallen trees, limbs and branches spared no town; not Fowler in the northeast corner of the county near the Pueblo County line, nor La Junta in east central Otero County.

Trailers and pickup truck beds full of debris were a common sight across the county, as were workers and property owners working hard to clean the mess.

"This is my third trip to the landfill today," said Fowler resident Lawrence Armijo.  "I've lived here most of my life and this is one of the worst storms I can remember."

Fowler resident Kathi Gates faced a different kind of cleanup Monday.

"This is all tumbleweeds and dead grasses and weeds that blew against my fence line," she said, motioning to a filled trash bag that was as tall as she is.

Gates was helped by her daughter, Kathryn Gates, who lives in nearby Rocky Ford.

"My power has been out since Saturday," she said.  "And I work from home on my computer.  So there's not much I can do.  I have a big house, so there's a lot of cleaning up to do."

The biggest spectacle in Rocky Ford was a large tree that fell, damaging a home and a fence.

"It'll take two days to clear this out," a worker said.

Meanwhile, in La Junta, there was so much debris that city officials allowed residents to dump it in a vacant lot, which brought a steady stream of vehicles.

"I'm thankful for this," a driver said.  

You'd think such a sizeable cleanup job would leave people in a grumpy mood, but most seemed cheerful and thankful the damage wasn't worse.

"I'll accept any and all volunteer help," said an elderly man in Rocky Ford, smiling as he cleaned his yard with his wife and kept an eye on a tree limb stuck on an overhead power line.

Heavy equipment and even street cleaners were used to remove debris in La Junta.

City workers said they hope to finish cleanup by Friday.

Despite the mess, many people were talking just as much about 30 inches of snow reported to the south in Baca County, and many drivers who couldn't enter Colorado because of Kansas roads closed by heavy snow.

"I was stranded in Dodge City since Saturday," said a railroad worker in La Junta.  "They're finally getting the roads open."

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