When rain follows fire: Glenwood Springs hosts webinar about post-fire dangers | PostIndependent.com

When rain follows fire: Glenwood Springs hosts webinar about post-fire dangers

Grizzly Creek Fire PIO Mike De Fries looks around at the Grizzly Creek Fire burn scar near the Grizzly Creek Trail.
Chelsea Self / Post Independent
Prepare for a flash flood with these tips provided by the Federal Emergency Management Agency:
  • Create a go-bag with emergency supplies and necessities
  • Plan an evacuation route with your family
  • Conduct a home inventory, itemize and photograph
  • Keep important paperwork together in a safe, weatherproof container
  • Purchase flood insurance

Glenwood Springs residents and others living near the Grizzly Creek Fire area should consider getting flood insurance as soon as possible, a Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) spokesperson said. 

More than a dozen specialists participated in a post-fire planning webinar hosted by the city of Glenwood Springs to help inform people about a wildfire’s dangerous aftermath.

Chief among those dangers were flash floods, mudflows and debris flow events. 

“Unfortunately, while the community is recovering from the fire, they are also dealing with flooding,” said Erin May, a FEMA National Flood Insurance Program specialist. “The biggest risk is in the first 1-3 years, but the major flooding in Boulder and Larimer counties (2013) occurred 10 years after wildfire scarred the area.” 

While most of the webinar centered on information presented during the Sept. 3 City Council meeting, FEMA representatives and a Colorado Department of Transportation spokesperson provided information about flooding damage to homes and emergency plans for flooding on Interstate 70.

“This is all about letting you know what comes after the fire,” Garfield County Sheriff Lou Vallario said. “It’s not an attempt to add anxiety or create hysteria, but we want you to know what you should be prepared for.”

FEMA spokesperson Peter Reinhardt said fire scars — the burned area left in the wake of a wildfire — create an ideal environment for flash floods. Without vegetation to keep sediment in place, even standard rain events can cause flash floods and mud flows.

A mudflow, May explained, is a river of liquid and moving mud, which is covered by the National Flood Insurance Program. Mud slides, however, are not covered by the program.

“Mud slides (aka landslides) look like crumbled cake,” she said. “And mud flows resemble debris-filled malted milkshakes.” 

Both can happen in the wake of a devastating wildfire, but CDOT has a plan, CDOT Communications Manager Elise Thatcher said.

“We are prepositioned and keeping on eye on the weather very closely,” Thatcher said. “If there is a flash flood watch for the Grizzly Creek Fire area, we will move to standby.”

If a flash flood warning is issued for the area, Thatcher said CDOT will deploy their response teams and close the interstate from Exit 116 (Glenwood) to Exit 133 (Dotsero).

Once closed, residents and travelers within the closure area would be evacuated, she added.

As a result of the fire, CDOT is monitoring infrastructure, including culverts, that could be affected during a debris-flow event throughout the canyon. CDOT engineers and maintenance teams will continue those monitoring and review efforts throughout the fall and winter, Thatcher said.Go to http://www.floodsmart.gov for more information about flood insurance, flood maps and coverage. May encouraged homeowners to speak with their local officials about whether or not their homes are at risk.

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