Mudslide ‘devastated’ Gypsum ranch |

Mudslide ‘devastated’ Gypsum ranch

Alexis Terrell
Vail, CO Colorado

EAGLE ” The three-foot wall of mud and debris that surrounded Sally Hesse and her family at Strawberry Fields Ranch in Gypsum wasn’t the first they’d ever seen. But it was the scariest


The same storms that sent mudslides crashing onto Interstate 70 and U.S. Highway 6 on Thursday also trapped Hesse, her husband and two teenage daughters inside the living quarters of their barn.

A sludge of rocks, branches and dead gophers started flooding their property, Hesse said.

“It’s pretty much devastated all the pastures we’ve worked so hard on,” she said.

Hesse’s youngest daughter, Rachel, was in the basement when she water began seeping through the walls. It happened so fast, she just had time to unplug the electrical wires that connect to the main utilities ” water pumps and electricity ” that power the ranch.

The family called the Gypsum fire

department to help them get out of their house and prevent any electrical fires.

“Something needs to be done on the sides of I-70,” Sally Hesse said. “There are obviously weak spots that aren’t holding.”

Heavy rains occurred soon after the Hesses bought the 37-acre ranch between Eagle and Gypsum in 2003. Those storms, the first of several flooding incidents, forced them to repave their driveway,

“Now, if we get a heavy rain, it’s scary,” she said. “There’s nothing like looking out your window and seeing a wall of mud. If you have livestock, it’s very dangerous.”

None of the Hesses’ 12 horses were injured, and the Hesses are staying at their house in Cordillera until the water and electricity can be turned on.

Mindy Crane, public relations manager for the Colorado Department of Transportation, said a flood or mudslide closing that stretch of I-70 are rare.

“We make sure crews are ready to respond and that drains are cleaned, but it’s unpredictable what the weather can do when you get that runoff down the slopes,” Crane said.

Calls Hesse made to the department of transportation for assistance to the ranch were turned down because the property is outside the agency’s jurisdiction.

“Sometimes Mother Nature wins, unfortunately,” Crane said.

SteamMaster is helping to remove the water from the Hesses’ basement so the electricity can be turned on. The Hesses’ four vehicles and horse trailer, which all had mud higher than the doors, had to be pulled out by tow trucks.

“We can’t take this year after year,” Hesse said.

With all the new construction, she thinks the mountainsides are getting weaker and the danger more apparent.

“It’s going to take years to rebuild these pastures,” Hesse said. “It’s quite a gorgeous ranch. Or at least it was.”

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