Assessing the damage: Routt County recovers from flooding |

Assessing the damage: Routt County recovers from flooding

Jim Meese, left, and Kevin McNamara, who do maintenance work for the KOA campground in Steamboat Springs, stand outside a flooded garage at the campground on Saturday morning. The two were busy pumping water back into the Yampa River, which overflowed and caused at least two guests to evacuate Friday.
Derek Maiolo

STEAMBOAT SPRINGS — The summer solstice did not leave Routt County residents much time for celebrating on Friday, as flooding and heavy snowfall sparked some businesses to mitigate damage and livestock owners to evacuate their animals. 

Nearby rivers, including the Yampa and Elk, reached their peak flows for the several days of rain and snow. It’s unknown when the river will peak for the season.

As of 7 a.m. Saturday, Routt County weather stations in the Community Collaborative Rain, Hail and Snow Network reported receiving between 0.8 and 1.86 inches of precipitation in the past 24 hours, a slight increase from Friday night. 

Doug Scherar, an undersheriff with the Routt County Sheriff’s Office, drove along Routt County Road 40 on Friday night with David “Mo” DeMorat, the county’s emergency management director to assess the conditions. 

They warned several homeowners in the area about the rising waters, but did not issue any evacuation orders, according to Scherar. 

He said that staff at Saddle Mountain Ranch loaded up horses and took them to neighboring farms to protect them from flooded pastures.

Crews with the county’s Road and Bridge Department did flood mitigation work in North Routt, where debris was accumulating and damming the Elk River, threatening nearby homes. 

Luke Fitzgerald, who only last week bought a home near Clark, saw a large cottonwood tree topple and float down the Elk River on Friday. He said water had flooded his property and that of his neighbors, but had not reached their houses. 

“It’s pretty intense right now,” he said on Friday.

Fitzgerald and his family are in an unlucky streak when it comes to natural disasters. He lived in New Orleans when Hurricane Katrina hit, then moved to Dallas only to suffer flooding there, as well. 

“Every place we moved to recently has had flooding,” he said.

Officials from the city and county have been offering free sandbags to people to form flood barriers around their homes. 

One resident, Robbie Shine, posted to Facebook on Friday, urging people to help him put sandbags around his house in the 800 block of Crawford Avenue, along Soda Creek.

He said more than 20 people showed up to help place 50,000 pounds worth of sandbags along the creek side.

“I went from being pretty scared to saying, ‘I’m so lucky we live here,’” Shine said.

The sandbags limited the damage to his property, which so far has been limited to erosion, he said. 

“It’s nothing that a little bit of soil and grass seed can’t fix,” he said.

Flooding conditions that climaxed on Friday evening have steadily abated. 

The flow of the Elk River, which peaked at about 8,000 cubic feet per second Friday night — more than triple its June 21 average of 2,040 cfs — decreased to 4,050 cfs on Saturday morning.

The Yampa River peaked at 4,120 cfs at the Fifth Street stream gauge Friday, but decreased to 3,320 cfs on Saturday.

With the lower water, people have been in the process of repairing the flood damage. 

At the KOA Campground on the west end of town, the Yampa River swelled and inundated several cabins and the employee housing area. 

Kevin McNamara, the maintenance supervisor for the campground, said people staying in two cabins had to be evacuated. The business paid for the people to buy a hotel room in town, according to McNamara. 

“We probably had about a foot and a half of water (Friday night),” he said, gesturing to a small lake of groundwater on the property. Some children were now playing in the lingering puddles as employees pumped the floodwater back into the Yampa River.

Sandbags are still available from Routt County Emergency Management. 

According to the National Weather Service in Grand Junction, the rain may not be over. Meteorologists predict a 50% chance of precipitation early Sunday morning, with a chance of showers and thunderstorms later in the day. 

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