Creek in Red Cliff floods; officials, volunteers rush to fill sandbags |

Creek in Red Cliff floods; officials, volunteers rush to fill sandbags

Firefighters, residents and others worked quickly Sunday night to fill sandbags as Turkey Creek crested its banks.
Turn around, don’t drown It doesn’t take much floodwater to pose a danger to life and property. According to Tracy LeClair of the Eagle River Fire Protection District, six inches of flood water can knock over a human. Just 12 inches of floodwater can carry away a car.

RED CLIFF — A combination of evening rain and an early summer warm spell prompted Turkey Creek in Red Cliff to crest its banks Sunday evening into Monday morning.

The call went out Sunday night that Turkey Creek — which runs off Shrine Pass through town — was rising quickly. The rushing water damaged two homes.

The flooding also damaged the employees-only bridge to the town’s water treatment plant. Town administrator Barb Smith said the biggest concern at the moment is that the bridge might send potentially damaging debris downstream.

Tracy LeClair, the public information officer for the Eagle River Fire Protection District, said another one of the biggest concerns is a natural gas line that runs under a bridge. That worry brought a crew from Xcel Energy to town.

Two homes took on water during the flooding. Utilities were cut off to both homes, one of which was unoccupied. People in the other home were able to stay with relatives in town.

Floodwaters from Turkey Creek also prompted officials to close the Shrine Pass Road, which runs from the top of Vail Pass down into Red Cliff. That road was closed due to fears of possible damage to the road bed.

“It’s crazy to see how high (the creek) came up,” Green Bridge Inn assistant manager Kristina Finamore said. “People said they haven’t seen it that high in 60 years.”

The response Sunday night brought people from several local agencies. The Eagle County Road and Bridge Department brought a truckload of sand and bags. Minturn’s public works department contributed manpower and equipment.

Residents volunteered to help fill sandbags through the night and into Monday.

Also on Monday, 10 inmates from the Eagle County jail filled sandbags in Eagle. The bags were taken by truck to both Red Cliff and Gypsum.

While the water isn’t threatening utility lines, LeClair said debris carried in floodwaters can potentially do a lot of damage. Red Cliff’s public works crew is working to spot debris and pull it from the creek.

In Minturn, the fire district issued a warning to river users there Monday afternoon. A wastewater line is nearly underwater at the bridge at County Road 14 north of town — near the U.S. Forest Service office. Water is also running near the underside of other bridges in town, prompting officials to warn people not to recreate in the water until streamflows subside.

While there isn’t much precipitation in the forecast for the next couple of days, the National Weather Service has issued possible flood warnings for the next couple of days.

The problem is that overnight temperatures have been in the 40s at higher elevations. That means snowmelt continues through the overnight hours instead of easing.

“Last night was way worse than it is today,” Finamore said. “But it’s supposed to get worse tonight. We’re all just kind of waiting, seeing what happens and waiting with sandbags.”

If warm temperatures persist, high water could last for some time.

“There’s still quite a bit of snow up high,” LeClair said, adding that the constant melting will swell just about all local streams. Those conditions are expected to last until at least Wednesday of this week.

Vail Daily Business Editor Scott Miller can be reached at and 970-748-2930.

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