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Storm opens road wounds

JERRY McBRIDE/Durango Herald

Tom Campion surveys his hail-damaged home near Marvel on Monday. A thunderstorm on Sunday afternoon let loose hail the size of golf balls that wreaked havoc on La Plata County houses and vehicles.

By Dale Rodebaugh Herald staff writer

The rain and hail that pounded Durango and La Plata County added insult to injury, Butch Knowlton, the county director of emergency services, said Monday.

Sunday’s storms wiped out most of the repairs that road and bridge crews did for three days after Wednesday’s storm. The best example was Woodard Canyon around the 3800 block of County Road 250 (East Animas Road).

In the hard-hit canyon, the Sunday storms loosened tons of rock debris from the red cliffs that border the road to the east.

“There were five to six feet of new debris – mud and boulders,” Knowlton said.

Many other areas were hit by mudslides, road closures and power outages, and landowners and businesses were out Monday cleaning up. Hail shattered windows in the Marvel area, where one resident reported 1.34 inches of rain.

Roads took a beating all over the county. Road and bridge crews surveyed damage and made preliminary repairs to roads Sunday night and Monday, Knowlton said. Crews cleared roads and drains to get traffic moving.

“They made minor and temporary repairs in a wide area, but they’ll have to go back to finalize work in many places.” Knowlton said.

All roads except East Animas can handle two-way traffic again, he said.

Travel on East Animas is restricted to residents and repair crews from just north of 32nd Street to Trimble Lane. Restricted access will remain in effect for the next few days.

Knowlton asked for patience from the public.

“Repair crews are moving from problem area to problem area,” Knowlton said. “The public has to expect delays because it’s going to take time to grade roads to the condition that we want and the public expects.”

Madness not so bad

On the other side of the valley, cleanup continues at U.S. Highway 550 and County Road 203 where landslides and flooding first occurred Wednesday, Knowlton said.

The owner of Mountain Madness Pizza & Pub at that intersection apparently was better prepared for Sunday’s storm, Knowlton said. The pizza place was flooded by debris from two flows Wednesday. A sign on a pickup parked there said “Bar Open Restaurant Closed.”

Colorado Department of Transportation spokeswoman Nancy Shanks said the agency has no immediate plans to reconfigure the landscape along Highway 550 north between mile markers 24 and 26 where flooding occurred Wednesday and again Sunday. Traffic at the site was diverted to Animas View Drive.

CDOT engineers say the four or five culverts in the two-mile stretch just north of city limits were simply overwhelmed, Shanks said.

“There was too much rain in a short time,” Shanks said. “The section was closed at 2:58 p.m. and opened at 9:41 p.m.”

The north Animas Valley wasn’t the lone victim of the storm that blew in from the west Sunday, swept through Durango then moved on to Lemon and Vallecito reservoirs and on to Bayfield.

Marvel in line of fire

It appears that Marvel, in the southwest corner of La Plata County, took a direct hit.

Anywhere one looks – houses with broken windows and damaged siding, cars with shattered windshields and pockmarked bodies, trees stripped of leaves and farm crops flattened.

“I’ve had better days,” Tom Campion said Monday as he showed visitors the west and north sides of his house off County Road 100. The vinyl siding displayed hundreds of holes.

“We watched the storm coming,” Campion said. “When the hail first hit, it sounded like a kid shooting prairie dogs with a .22-caliber rifle, then in no time it was like a machine gun.”

Pingpong-sized hailstones broke two double-paned windows, fractured a flower pot, pierced a rubberized cover on a grill parked on the porch and dented a metal stovepipe.

The Campions’ 2005 Ford Five Hundred had indentations on one side, the hood and top.

Jean Campion said neighbors were posting photos of damage to their properties on Facebook.

Dora Greer, a 30-year employee of the U.S. Postal Service, was taking in the sun at the Marvel post office where she was postmaster for 20 years.

“I had two windows broken in my house and one in my shop just a block north and a block east of here,” Greer said. “The windshield of my car was shattered.

“Everyone here had some kind of damage,” Greer said, rattling off names of a half-dozen Marvel families.

Crop damage undetermined

The U.S. Department of Agriculture service center in Durango has not received reports of crop damage.

Rancher Jim Dyer reported 1.34 inches of rain and golf ball-sized hail at his Marvel farm. He had harvested chard, kale, corn, squash and tomatoes before the rain and hail came so suffered little crop loss. But he had three vehicles damaged by hail.

Dyer said a lot of fine hail tends to shred crops, but large hailstones tend to damage vehicles and other objects more than crops.

Darrin Parmenter, horticulturist and director of the Colorado State University Extension office in Durango, said crop damage is a given.

“It may be a day or two before they ask for help because they’re dealing with their situations right now,” Parmenter said.

Crops can come back from hail in July or August, Parmenter said. But it’s different in late September.

“There’s no season left to rejuvenate,” Parmenter said.

In the wake of the storm, temperatures dropped to 35, 34, 32 degrees and brought frost, Parmenter said. The nippy weather will take a toll on summer crops such as melons, tomatoes, beans and squash.

Rains well above norms

The Durango area has been pummeled by rain in September, said meteorologist Chris Cuoco at the National Weather Service in Grand Junction.

The Durango-La Plata County Airport received 1.64 inches of rain in the 24 hours ending at noon Monday, Cuoco said. The airport total for Sept. 1-22 is 4.64 inches, while the normal for the same period is 1.49 inches.

Normal precipitation for the entire month is 1.91 inches, Cuoco said.

One observer who reports to the National Weather Service from Durango has recorded 5.69 inches so far this month, while normal-to-date is 1.69 inches.

The Durango area will see dry, windy, cooler weather until at least Friday, Cuoco said.

“But the potential Friday storm may not arrive,” he said.

A fall storm will dump rain north of the San Juan Mountains on Wednesday and Thursday, Cuoco said.

High temperatures today and Wednesday around Durango will be 72 and 73, respectively. Temperatures will be 65, 59, 64 and 67 for the next four days.

Low temperatures will be in the low 40s, dropping to 33 and 37 on Friday and Saturday, respectively.


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