Eagle County officials want Basalt, El Jebel residents to be prepared for floods, mudslides
The Aspen Times
Residents on the fringes of the Lake Christine Fire need to be prepared to deal with another potential natural disaster once the summer monsoons hit, according to Eagle County Emergency Manager Barry Smith.
At a recent media briefing Smith said that it’s a question of when the Basalt and El Jebel area will receive heavy rainfall, not if. Heavy rains are forecast as a possibility in western Colorado on Sunday afternoon and evening, though not necessarily for Basalt specifically, he noted.
The concern is that the midvalley will be more susceptible to flash flooding because so many slopes are devoid of vegetation after the Lake Christine Fire swept through.
“We don’t have a way to stop that flooding from happening, so we want to prepare people that it’s going to happen,” Smith said. “The best thing we can do is get people out of the way so nobody gets injured or killed in a flood.”
Generally there is very little notice for flash floods, so residents need to make sure they are signed up for Pitkin and Eagle County alerts, Smith said. The National Weather Service is paying attention to burn areas in Colorado and will send alerts when heavy rains are possible.
When it does rain, stay alert and be prepared for the possibility of being stranded for a while if neighborhood roads get covered in mud and debris. The gullies that typically flow during heavy rains will now do so more intensely — with more water and the addition of ash and dirt.
“All we can do is come in and clean up as quickly as possible,” Smith said. “We do have equipment pre-staged.”
Eagle County is urging property owners to make sure they have flood insurance. The Federal Emergency Management Agency offers a preferred risk policy.
“All Eagle County and Basalt residents are eligible to purchase flood insurance due to the fact that both jurisdictions participate in the National Flood Insurance Program,” said information provided by Eagle County government.
There is up to seven years of increased flood risk after a wildfire even if a structure isn’t located in a high-risk area, according to the county information. Homeowners’ insurance policies usually do not cover flooding. Renters can get insurance covering contents.
The insurance can be issued through any insurance agent who can write property and casualty insurance in Colorado. Acting sooner rather than later is best because there is a 30-day wait on all new policies — with an exception if flooding is caused by post-wildfire conditions coming from federal lands, according to Eagle County.
The Lake Christine Fire has burned on state, private and federal lands. It’s now burning in the heavy timber of national forest.
If there is flooding, the watershed and the part of the economy dependent on fishing in the gold medal waters of the Roaring Fork and Fryingpan rivers are also at risk. The fire has burned far enough in an easterly direction on the ridge above Fryingpan Valley that it could result in silt-clogged runoff reaching the Fryingpan River.
“It going to go to all sides of the mountain and all those gullies in the burn area will have debris, mud, a lot of extra water and ash flowing down there,” Smith said. “It’s going to go all directions.”