A Florida man visited Ute Pass on Wednesday for the first time since a tool he created was installed for flood protection.
Buzz Waid created the Trap Bag, a sandbag-like device, in 2004 after flood damage from Hurricane Charley. It's already being used for flood protection in several states.
However, it wasn't until the first major flood after the Waldo Canyon Fire last summer that local leaders became aware of the bag. The flood entered Sand Gulch and narrowly missed Ute Pass Elementary School but destroyed the playground.
"One of the emergency managers in North Dakota said there was probably a problem here, and maybe we could help them," said Waid.
Tim Miller, assistant superintendent for School District 14, in Manitou Springs, said the district and El Paso County split the $18,000 cost of installing the bags along both sides of the gulch.
Waid said his bags often are mistaken for sandbags, but actually they are made of a high-density synthetic fabric and then filled with sand. He said they function more like a honeycomb in a beehive.
"They can withstand impact in a given spot and damage to one cell (bag), so that a flood won't damage or destroy the entire barrier. They're not a silver bullet. They're not the answer to everything, and they can't stop mudslides, but we can redirect them."
Each bag costs between $50 and $75, said Waid, and they are 75 percent effective in diverting floods as long as the floods don't engulf the bags.
Waid said the bags also protect homes near the school, an area near Pulpit Rock in Colorado Springs, and the water supply for the Air Force Academy.
Elsewhere, he said, the bags protect beaches in New York City that were damaged by last year's Superstorm Sandy, and they are also used in Louisiana, Washington, North Dakota, Canada and Thailand.
Miller said the bags provide effectiveness and peace of mind.
"To parents and families who send their kids to this school, (the bags) are quite safe," he said.
Waid is waiting for local leaders to decide if they want to use more of the bags.