Mudslides at Sweetwater
EAGLE COUNTY ” Last Saturday’s cloudburst was a welcome relief for most valley residents, after 12 consecutive days of parched lawns and temperatures in the high 90s.
But that same rainstorm unleashed a half-dozen mud slides on Sweetwater Creek, creating a muddy quagmire for several property owners in that rural section of the county.
“Everything that used to be green, with fences and gates, is now brown with rocks and trees,” said Cathie Jarnot, who lives two miles up Sweetwater Creek from the Colorado River Road. She and her husband, Robert, were off on a camping trip when the storm hit at about 6 p.m. Saturday.
They came home to find their hayfields awash with mud, and their driveway swamped by a flow of dirt and rocks that almost went into the house. The mudslide also moved a small horse trailer across their property, and relocated a chicken house that the Jarnots use to raise peacocks. One peacock chick is missing. The Jarnots have lived on Sweetwater Creek for eight years.
Residents report that several homes and ranches were turned into mud flats and rock piles by the storm. The heaviest damage was on the first three miles of Sweetwater Road.
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“It was a pretty fierce storm,” said Eagle County Emergency Manager Barry Smith. Smith noted that National Weather Service data indicates the area received three-quarters of an inch of rain between 6 and 7 p.m. Saturday.
The unexpected storm left travelers stranded and stuck for a stretch of several miles on the gooey rural road.
County Road and Bridge Crew Director Brad Higgins said workers with loaders and trucks arrived at Sweetwater by 7 p.m., and worked until 2:30 a.m. clearing debris off the road. A repeat rainstorm on Sunday had the crews out again, working until the early hours of the morning.
“The road is getting better by the day,” says Higgins, noting that crews have been widening down the narrow road out as they scrape down to the road base.
Summer cloudbursts and mudslides aren’t unusual up in that area. There was serious flooding there in the late 1970s. Higgins said mudslides occur every few years.