There’s an increased chance of flooding on the 416 Fire burn scar until Saturday as storms roll across Southwest Colorado, according to the National Weather Service.
Matthew Aleska, a meteorologist for the NWS in Grand Junction, said a high-pressure system over northwestern New Mexico is increasing the chances for storms that could produce heavy rain over parts of Southwest Colorado.
This weather pattern will remain in place until at least Saturday, Aleska said.
“Any storms that do form will have the potential for heavy rain,” he said.
If one of these storms develops above the 416 Fire burn scar north of Durango, there could be a risk of flooding for homes in Hermosa.
Butch Knowlton, La Plata County’s director for the Office of Emergency Management, said a storm hit the headwaters of Tripp and Buck creeks around 3 p.m. Tuesday, which brought a good amount of debris, silt and rocks to the bottom of the drainage.
Knowlton said he heard from residents who live in the area that it wasn’t raining in Hermosa, but they could hear the water coming down the canyons. One person said they heard the water coming down for 10 to 15 minutes before it hit Hermosa.
No serious property damage was reported, but Knowlton said the debris flow hit County Road 203 and did reach some residents’ yards. The county’s Road and Bridge crews were out Wednesday cleaning the road and some nearby ditches and culverts, he said.
A temporary radar system was installed on top of Missionary Ridge to help local officials track storms that could cause flooding off the 416 Fire burn scar. That radar can viewed by the public by visiting www.arrc.ou.edu/px1000.
“We’ve been looking at these storms as they develop,” Knowlton said. “We hope it doesn’t get real bad.”
Soils burned in a fire no longer have the ability to absorb moisture, so there’s an increased risk of flooding and debris flows for the homes and property below a burn scar.
These fears were realized in July and September of last year, when floods hit homes around Hermosa.
Knowlton said in the past year, some homeowners have been proactive and protected their homes and property by building ditches, berms and installing sandbags to divert water. Other residents haven’t done much work and remain at risk of flooding.
“The spectrum is wide,” Knowlton said.
The National Resources Conservation Service started a $7 million project this week to perform a range of safety measures on about 120 homes in the path of potential flooding.