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Rye recovers from rare flooding

By Scott Harrison
Published On: Jul 16 2013 07:42:04 PM CDT

Town's water treatment plant closed until tomorrow because pipes are clogged with debris.

RYE, Colo. -

Mayor Terry Mabrey said he's still trying to determine how many residents are affected by the flooding of Greenhorn Creek in Rye.

The creek overflowed and became more of a river after six inches of rain fell overnight Sunday.  Residents said it was the worst flooding in the southern Pueblo County town in more than 70 years.

The creek had receded Tuesday but remained twice as high as normal, said Mabrey.

"I actually thought (the high water) would be gone by this morning," he said.  "I was surprised there was still that much water."

Most of the damage appeared to be limited to debris on streets and in yards and fences knocked down.  The flood brought a wave of mud, sand, boulders and logs that came faster than it could drain. 

Mabrey said two pipes the creek flows through weren't completely clogged, but slowed the flow enough to cause floodwaters to back up.

"It actually changed the course of the creek," said Mabrey.

"There were so many boulders, it sounded like thunder," said Brad Elliott, a resident who helped repair a neighbor's fence.

The worst damage may have been to Joyce Smith's 85-year-old log cabin along the creek on Boulder Avenue.  Floodwaters poured into her yard and into her basement.  A family renting the cabin evacuated.

Smith said the cabin is a complete loss.

"I don't have insurance," she said.  "I didn't even think about it, and neither did my insurance (agent).  We didn't know we were in a flood plain.  I'll clean it up as best I can, then put (the cabin) on the market.  It'll be someone else's dream."

A crew from Giovanni Clean in Pueblo will spend the week working in the flood-soaked home.  They wore breathing masks for protection.

"There could be mold spores and bacteria," said supervisor Nick Nardini.  "We know how to properly clean up with certain chemicals that homeowners just can't access."

Nardini surveyed the damaged home as co-workers brought out wheelbarrows full of soaked clothing and bedding and placed them in a waste receptacle.

"On a scale of 1 to 10, I'd say this is about a 10," he said.

Rye gets its water from the creek, and flood debris clogged intake pipes.  Mabrey said that forced officials to close the town's water treatment plant until Wednesday.  However, he said the town has enough water in storage tanks to supply residents for several days if needed. 

"We're asking residents to conserve water," said Mabrey.

Rye is working with state agencies to protect its water supply from future floods.

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