The Crestone Eagle, August 2006:

Flash floods hit the Crestone area

by Keno

On July 3, several flash floods came down the hillsides in the Baca Grande Chalets, causing widespread damage after a severe thunderstorm hit. The storm started shortly after 5pm, and for the next hour up to 2 inches of heavy rain and hail fell on some areas.

Officially, 1.47 inches of precipitation fell in one hour, a block south of the Baca Fire Station—with 1 inch of that coming down in the first 40 minutes. Several parts of the Crestone/Baca area had more or less precipitation reported, depending on where the measurements were taken.

In the town of Crestone, only a little more than half an inch fell in an hour. At the Baca’s weather station in Chalets I, 1.28 inches were recorded. It was estimated that over 2 inches of rain fell about 5 blocks south of the Baca Fire Station, closing parts of the main road and several side streets due to road damage in the area.

The flash flood was considered a 20-year flood, with this being the second 20-year-flood to hit parts of the same exact area in the last 3 years. Many misunderstand the meaning of such a flood, as this term does not mean such a flood will happen on average every 20 years. A 20-year-flood is defined as having a 5% chance of occurrence each year, in turn, a 100-year flood has a 1% chance of occurring each year.

The storm cell responsible for this storm was not seen on radar, so there was no warning issued for our region. “It is almost impossible for us to see most of the big thunderstorms in Crestone, because they are blocked by the mountains,” says Tom Magnuson, warning coordination meteorologist for the Pueblo office. That has been the case for the last several storms, including last year’s tornado and the 2003 storm which produced flash floods.

The damage from this flood was a bit more widespread in the Chalets than was seen 3 years ago. Most places didn’t receive the amount of water and damage that the 2003 flood caused; however, on Panorama Way, where Alan London’s car was eaten up by the flood, it was just as bad or even worst. The main problem (besides too much water running downhill too fast) is the sandy soil on the side of our highly compacted gravel roads—along with the steep angles on which the roads were built. “Our gravel roads, or even the blacktop ones, come straight down the fall line and must have been designed by folks who have no clue about landscapes,” says local Jim Erdman. “Even on Two-Trees (which is paved) you could see deep gulleying along the road’s edges.”

One good note we needed this moisture really badly. The soil moisture, tested (by Erdman on July 5), went more than a foot down into the soil. Yes, we needed that moisture, and all of us are happy to see it, just not so much all at once!