Mudslide flowed through town
It was getting dark so suddenly that Alice thought there must be a thunderstorm coming on. “What a thick black cloud that is!” she said. “And how fast it comes! Why I do believe it’s got wings!” – Lewis Carroll, “Through the Looking Glass” Turbulent weather descended upon the Roaring Fork Valley in the summer of 1937. Violent rainstorms began in late June and continued into July. Debris from the rainstorms closed roads to automobile travel and halted rail traffic. Fields of ripening crops had been destroyed by hail. Minor flooding had struck portions of Glenwood Springs.At 4:30 p.m. July 30, the dark clouds gathering above Glenwood Springs predicted another pending thunderstorm. Rain began to fall, but not gently. A deluge of water fell from the sky, the power concentrating upon the western slope of Lookout Mountain near Linwood Cemetery. The ground was unable to take up such a volume of rain from the brief half-hour storm. A flood rushed down the slope, taking with it tons of rocks, trees, logs, mud and clay. The torrent flowed rapidly to the town of Glenwood Springs.Fred Robertson’s house at 1128 Bennett Ave. received the initial brunt of the flood. Water and debris hit the back of the house, flowing through the structure. The basement filled with rock and debris. The Robert Robinson family fled their house at 1131 Grand Ave. before the flow hit their home. Their house, as well as that of K.A. Baillie at 1129 Grand Ave., became marooned in mud and rock.After briefly backing up on Grand Avenue and blocking the street, the deluge broke free, flowing down Grand and Colorado Avenues. Yards filled with mud and rocks. Passenger crossings at the Denver and Rio Grande Depot were obliterated as the flow made its way toward the Colorado River. A slow cleanup began.The Glenwood Springs City Council, the Garfield County commissioners, and representatives from the state of Colorado met Aug. 2, 1937, to propose construction plans for a flood control channel. This channel would extend from Lookout Mountain to the Roaring Fork River at 12th Street. To help defray costs, federal funding was explored. By late July 1938, the diversion canal had been approved, funded and finished. A bridge spanning the canal on Grand Avenue at 12th Street was also completed. Flood waters would continue to flow to the rivers, but the creation of a clear channel would mitigate the future loss of property and prevent the loss of life. “Frontier Diary” is provided to the Post Independent by the Frontier Historical Society and Museum, 1001 Colorado Ave., Glenwood Springs. Summer hours are 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday through Saturday. For more information, call 945-4448.
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Editor’s note: Managing Editor and Senior Reporter John Stroud did not participate in discussions for this editorial since he is the primary reporter on the story.