Gypsum residents awaiting flooding
Ryan Summerlin May 30, 2011
GYPSUM, Colorado – Last year, the residents of Parkview Lane in Gypsum got a knock on their doors at 4 a.m. It was the Sheriff’s Office informing them that the Eagle River was cresting.
“There was nothing to do,” said Judy Evans, who has lived on Parkview for 10 years. “By the time I walked out of my house at 5 a.m., all my neighbors were already standing outside and we were surrounded by water.”
Evans said she pumped about three feet of water out of her crawl space last year. Luckily, the Parkview homes themselves weren’t flooded, just crawl spaces, yards and driveways. The 3-acre plot next door to Evans transformed into a pond.
This year, the people of Parkview Lane are bracing themselves for a similar situation, if not worse.
The Gypsum Fire Department, which is accustomed to placing water pumps and sandbags to mitigate flooding along the Eagle River, is watching the water levels carefully.
“The river gets relatively high every year. But everyone on Parkview is good until it reaches about 9 feet or 7,000 cfs (cubic feet per second),” Gypsum Fire Chief Dave Vroman said.
It reached that last year, but they were fine. Their property was flooded but not their houses.
Everyone who lives on the Parkview cul de sac is at the lowest spot on the river. There’s a sort of land depression there. But it’s really not that prone to getting hit. In 65 years of data, the river has only gone over 7,000 cfs three times.
Last June was the worst of these. Vroman and his crew were called to action, and even some inmates from the Eagle County Jail helped place sandbags along the river.
Although the 2010 snowpack was below average, last June’s flooding was due to the rapid melt. Considering the ongoing cool temperatures this spring – especially overnight – the water levels are not rising quickly – at least not yet.
“The Eagle usually crests around Fathers Day,” Vroman said. “I understand we had a huge snowpack – 150 percent of normal – but it takes three days of 75 degrees at 10,000 feet to get the kind of melt like we had last year. Unlike the Mississippi or these big floods we read about back East, water here doesn’t come up and stay up. We’re in the mountains and when it gets cool at night, the water goes back down. But we monitor it very carefully.”
Evans said that her brother, who was the previous owner of her house, built a berm around her property after it flooded in the 1980s and that has since helped keey the water at bay. Tom and Darlene Henderson, who live down the street, are hoping to do the same before the water rises in the next few weeks. Their property was flooded so badly last June and they are anticipating worse this year.
“Last year it came between our house and the house next to us. It got over the bank and down it came,” Tom Henderson said. “It wasn’t devastating by any means, but it was scary because the water was deep and rising.”
In the next few days, the Hendersons are going to cordon off what they see as an inevitable flood with sandbags and they’re hoping to find someone with unwanted dirt to deposit on their property so they can build a berm similar to the one around Evans’ property.
“We know it’s going to come,” Henderson said of the water. “This year we’re trying to keep it off. … Just from looking now, this river is really doing some moving.”
Vroman said the Fire District takes serious action – property mitigation and possibly evacuation – when the river rises to 8 1/2 feet. Parkview residents trust that the fire department and Sheriff’s office will have things under control and as neighbors, they watch out for one another. But there is only so much anyone can do about a flood.
“Believe me, I plug my phone next to my bed just in case there’s an (Eagle County) alert,” Evans said. “Because we’ve had such cool weather at night, I’m not as concerned. We’ve never been considered to be in a flood plain, just twice every 25 years – the same as in West Vail or East Vail on Gore Creek. But we have a lot of snow up there. Everyone wants the snow, that’s what we’re here for, so we all have to adjust to what happens when the sun comes out and the snow goes away.”