Mitchell Creek area evacuated following severe flood warning
A thunderstorm moving from the east Thursday evening, threatening a severe cloudburst over burned areas in Glenwood Springs, prompted a three-hour evacuation of Mitchell Creek residents.But by 9:50 p.m. the storm fizzled and the evacuation party going on in the southeast corner of the Glenwood Springs Mall broke up.”This was a good dry run,” said Garfield County Sheriff Tom Dalessandri.He credited the past three weeks of planning since the Coal Seam Fire blowup on June 8 for a cooperative evacuation.Officials have said that the first big rainstorm to hit the Mitchell Creek drainage following the fire will cause mudslides and debris flow. Similar patterns are expected on Red Mountain as well, but no residences are in danger there.Glenwood Springs police chief Terry Wilson said the Mitchell Creek evacuation, which occurred between 7:30 and 8 p.m., went smoothly.The two officials gathered people together at 9:30 p.m. to announce that the evacuation would probably be called off by 10 p.m. They used the opportunity to confirm the evacuation system with residents.”How many of you were notified by the reverse 911?” Wilson asked.About 20 of the 100 people in the parking lot raised their hands.”How many of you got a call from a neighbor?” he asked. Another 30 raised their hands.”And how many of you knew just from looking out your window?”Half the hands in the crowd went up.”It’s very unusual to see clouds that black pushing from east to west,” Wilson said of the storm. “I’d encourage all of you to keep your eye out.”Wilson said the police officers and sheriff’s deputies who went through the evacuated neighborhoods on Mitchell Creek, Donegan Road, Creekside Court and in Storm King Park reported that residents were well prepared for an evacuation and departed in an orderly manner.”That’s really good,” Wilson said. “If we’re in a faster situation and we need to move you quick, we’ll be able to do that.”Mary Sorensen said Mitchell Creek neighbors made a plan a week ago to keep each other notified.”We’ll make sure that everybody’s accounted for,” said Sorensen, who stopped to pick up a neighbor’s dog Thursday before heading to the mall parking lot.”We have a really good neighborhood. We do watch out for each other,” she said.Many other people are watching out for the neighborhood as well.More than a mile of concrete barriers have been put in place along Donegan Road and down the west bank of lower Mitchell Creek.On Thursday evening, Garfield County Road and Bridge crews in Glenwood Springs and Silt were put on alert, said Marvin Stephens, assistant director for the department.”We have graders, dozers and loaders on both sides of Mitchell Creek,” he said. The first priority would be to clear Interstate 70 and then reopen Donegan and Mitchell Creek roads.Mitchell Creek flows into a long culvert under Highway 6 & 24 and I-70 before reaching the Colorado River, just upstream of the West Glenwood Sanitation treatment plant.State Patrol Corp. Ron Madsen said troopers were prepared to close the highway if a mudslide overflows onto the roadway.Meanwhile, local volunteers with the American Red Cross served hot coffee and cold juice to evacuated families and waited for the order to set up an overnight shelter at Glenwood Springs High School.That order never came Thursday night, but everyone who participated in the evacuation Thursday knows that the next time, it could be for real.
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