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No injuries reported as debris flow closes Highway 550, County Road 250

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Tuesday, July 24, 2018 4:19 PM

Updated at 4:10 p.m.

All roads north of Trimble Lane in Durango are closed, including U.S. Highway 550, County Road 203 and County Road 250.

Authorities are attempting to move evacuees of the flooding and debris flow south to Durango.

Scot Davis, spokeswoman for Durango Fire Protection District, said debris is still actively moving onto the roadway north of Durango on U.S. Highway 550.

Davis said there have been no reports of injury, but homes have been damaged. He said another storm cell is making its way to the flood area.

La Plata Electric Association has cut off power in the Animas Valley as a preventative safety measure. Power will be restored once it's safe, a spokeswoman said.

Updated at 3:45 p.m.

Debris flowed onto U.S. Highway 550 near Honeyville and other nearby spots on Tuesday afternoon, blocking the highway in several places.

As of 3:45 p.m., County Road 250 was closed north of Trimble Lane. Davis said debris from the 2002 Missionary Ridge Fire is flowing onto the roadway.

The rains came shortly after the National Weather Service issued a flash flood alert for the 416 Fire burn scar about 2 p.m.

"We had water flowing around the house at least one foot deep," said Norma Byrd, who was calling from the Country Sunshine Bed & Breakfast off the frontage road near mile marker 34 on Highway 550.

A guest had just managed to reach the bed and breakfast after being trapped between two slides, Byrd said.

"It was spectacular to hear the river come through. It was not deep, but it was wide, about 30 feet wide," Byrd said. "The rain was torrential, worse than last week."

Kaylee Leidal and her husband, Brian, bought their house on County Road 250 in April.

Last week, mud caused significant damage to the interior of their home, which is across the street from the KOA Campground.

"We need to replace our entire first floor flooring, and likely some of our drywall," she said.

Today, it rained for about 20 minutes before debris flows hit that lasted for 7 to 8 minutes, she said. She was unsure of the exact damage from today's debris flows.

As of 3:15 p.m., things had calmed down and people were walking on County Road 250. There was a stream of water still flowing toward the road, Leidal said.

Lisa Schwantes, spokeswoman with the Colorado Department of Transportation, confirmed U.S. Highway 550 was closed at mile 35 in both directions, near the same location as flooding last week.

Butch Knowlton, director of La Plata County Emergency Preparedness, said floods and debris flows are near the KOA Campground and the Animas Village Apartments, formerly the Whispering Pine Apartments.

A Durango & Silverton Narrow Gauge train to Silverton was stopped in Rockwood to prevent it from entering the area where debris was flowing.

The flash flood warning was issued by the National Weather Service for the 416 Fire burn scar about 2 p.m. and extends through 5:15 p.m. today.

Residents should shelter in place if their property is flooding, Durango Fire Protection District spokesman Scot Davis said.

DFPD firefighters are responding to the area, but they are not able to drive beyond the road closure at about 3:15 p.m., Davis said.

Those people who are in floods should call 911 and advise emergency responders of their condition and location, he said.

"We will get fire and rescue personal to you as quickly as possible," Davis said.

DFPD firefighters will respond to those people depending on their priority. Those with a gas leak or a medical condition or other emergency situation will be prioritized, he said.

Linda Jones, a resident of the Animas Village Apartments on Highway 550, said a wall of mud was flowing by her home and it was hailing at about 2:30 p.m.

"Our cars are flooded; we have no way out," she said. Mud was also flowing across Highway 550, blocking their exit.

She estimated that several hundred people are stranded.

Jones said she lives in a top-floor apartment and could see the mud flowing into the homes on the bottom level.

She received a Code Red alert from La Plata County about the potential flooding but did not have enough time to leave, she said.

Mike Charnick, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service, said the flash-flood warning is issued when storms are above the burn area that hold the high potential to cause flooding and debris flow from the burn area.

The rain that came, as predicted by the alert, led to debris flow moving through the Hermosa Creek Drainage and Tripp Gulch Drainage.

Debris flows can consist of rock, mud, vegetation and other loose materials.

The area includes U.S. Highway 550 between mile markers 25 and 44.

"A couple of thunderstorms are developing that hold the potential for flooding and debris flow for the next three hours," Charnick said around 2 p.m.

The Weather Service said people near rivers or streams should move to higher ground. People in or near the 416 Fire burn area should be watchful for developing debris flow and flooding, and they should move away from the burn area.

parmijo@durangoherald.com

2 Images

A storm over the 416 Fire burn area caused flooding and debris flows Tuesday, closing U.S. Highway 550 north of Durango.
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