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Rude awakening: Storm rouses woman, flood traps her in car

Heather McGregor
Managing Editor

Ann Martin never knew a flood could be so loud, or so terrifying.

Martin was fleeing her Mitchell Creek home Monday night, wearing pajamas and clogs, when mud and rocks gushed through a pasture and engulfed her 1998 Subaru wagon.

One moment she was driving the car down Mitchell Creek Road; the next moment the mudslide shoved the car to the edge of the road. Rocks carried by rushing mud banged the car and rumbled under it, tearing off most of the undercarriage.

“I opened the driver’s side door, and I could see mud and rocks running everywhere. I was teetering on the edge,” she said Tuesday. Martin feared her car would be swept off the edge of the road and into the pasture below.

“I’ve never been that scared in my life. I said, `Please, Lord, don’t let me drown in the mud,'” she said.

Behind her, her daughter Audra Dobbs, 18, was following in her Ford pickup.

“She was watching from behind, and she couldn’t do anything,” Martin said.

It would have been suicide for either of the women to get out of their cars.

Five minutes earlier, Martin had been sleeping. She works the night shift as a nurse in the intensive care unit at Valley View Hospital, and would have gone to work a couple of hours later. Dobbs heard the fast-moving storm hit, ran and woke her mother. They grabbed their pets and raced for their vehicles. “We didn’t waste any time,” Martin said.

Martin’s other daughter, Ayla Dobbs, 13, was already at the home of her grandmother, Joan Duprey.

“By the time we got to the driveway, the road was already a raging torrent of mud and water. We almost couldn’t get out of the driveway,” Martin said.

They didn’t get far when a channel of mud spilled down off the east flank of Storm King Mountain, knocked down a fence, roared through a pasture and slammed into her car. The mud swept on down through another pasture and into Mitchell Creek.

The front end of Martin’s car lodged on a big rock, and she was stuck.

“I was terrified. It was pouring, dark. I could see I was on the edge,” Martin said.

But it wasn’t long before help arrived.

Martin’s neighbor, Rich Kolecki, manager of the Glenwood Springs Fish Hatchery on Mitchell Creek, and Glenwood Springs police Lt. Lou Vallario parked just below the mudslide. They waded up through the mud, to the downstream side of the vehicles.

“I rolled down the passenger side window, and they were yelling, `Get out! Get out!’ I climbed out the passenger side window. They went up and got my daughter, and they helped us get through the mud.

“It was extremely hard to stand up, and it just took our shoes away.

“They really risked their lives in that mud. It was so swift,” Martin said.

“Mr. Vallario got me out. He basically got me out,” Dobbs added, noting that Vallario was already suffering from a broken rib and a broken wrist, and took a fall during the harrowing rescue.

Nearby, the slide blasted through a line of concrete jersey barriers linked with heavy rebar, knocking them over like they were bales of hay.

Mud swirled down into the driveway of Bruce and Lee Bowles, surrounding a parked SUV up to its running boards.

On Tuesday, Martin and her daughters went back to their home for a few hours.

The yard they worked so hard on this summer is ruined. The creek ate up part of their driveway. But there was no mud in their house.

While they were in the neighborhood, they went over to the Bowles’ home and found the family’s cat trapped by solidified mud and rocks under the porch.

They took that cat, and their own pets, back to Duprey’s home, where they planned to stay Tuesday night.

“I’ve lived in that house for 40 years, and I’ve never seen it rain like that, not that hard,” Martin said of the Mitchell Creek house where she grew up, and raised her own daughters.

“We knew it was coming,” she said of the mudslide, “but we weren’t prepared for something like that.”


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