2014 Pulitzer Prize Winner
  • Federal loan assistance center opens in Manitou Springs

    Wed, September 4, 2013 by Ryan Handy with no comments

    The U.S. Small Business Administration has opened a center aimed at helping residents recover from flash flooding last month in Manitou Springs.

    The outreach center, which is housed at the ManitouSpringsCity Hall, 606 Manitou Ave., will feature representatives from the administration who can help people apply for low-interest federal disaster loans. It will close at 5 p.m. on Sept. 12.

    Loans are available for a wide range of people affected by the Aug. 9 flood, which came rushing down Waldo and Williams canyons, killing one person and damaging dozens of homes and businesses. Homeowners, renter, business owners and officials from nonprofit organizations can apply, the administration said in a release.

    Residents must apply for property damage claims by Oct. 29, and economic injury applications are due May 30. To apply, visit https://disasterloan.sba.gov/ela.

  • Volunteer flood clean-up day in Black Forest

    Fri, August 9, 2013 by Ryan Handy with no comments

    Outdoor Colorado is hosting a volunteer clean-up even in Black Forest Regional Park on Saturday, Aug. 10. More than 100 volunteers are already planning to help with a repair and restoration project to stabilize a drainage basin in the park. The project is designed to minimize erosion and the flow of debris from the burn scar into other areas of the park.

    Sleep Giant Industries has donated 50 pallets of mulch to the project, and will be working with volunteers on Saturday as well. The project will cover three acres. The park is at 4800 Shoup Road, and has 427 acres including grassy area, tennis courts, a playground and picnic grounds. All of the parks facilities survived the Black Forest fire but now face flash flood danger.

    There will also be a Saturday seminar on rebuilding and repairing damaged homes with a focus on energy and water efficiency. The Saturday seminar, hosted by Colorado Renewable Energy Society, will be the first of two–the second is on Oct. 5.

    Saturday’s seminar will be at Edith Woldford Elementary School, 13710 Black Forest Road, from 9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. The seminar is an expanded version of talks given to Mountain Shadows homeowners last summer; it will address the basics of home energy and water efficiency and energy efficient heating and cooling, among others.  The talks will include specific information about efficient energy initiatives from Black Hills Energy and Mountain View Electric Association.

    For more information contact Jim Riggins, 719-313-6171. Information can also be found at secres.org/events/blackforest.html

  • U.S. Forest Service seeking public comment of Waldo Canyon erosion control projects

    Fri, July 19, 2013 by Ryan Handy with no comments

    The U.S. Forest has opened up a 30-day long public comment period on its Waldo Fire Area Sediment Control project, which will be constructing sediment basins, log erosion barriers and bolstering culverts throughout the Waldo Canyon fire burn scar.

    The project will span 2,000 acres, and aims to prevent mudslides and debris flow down the mountain–such as the community of Manitou Springs has seen over the past two weeks.

    All comments or questions about the project can be sent be letters, emails or messages. Please send comments to:

    Mike Picard, Project NEPA Coordinator

    San Isabel National Forest

    5575 Cleora Road, Salida, CO


    Phone: 719-530-3959

    Fax: 719-539-3593

    Email: mpicard@fs.fed.us, please reference “Waldo Fire Area Sediment Control Comments” in the subject line.

  • Colorado fires and Canadian flooding–connected?

    Fri, July 12, 2013 by Ryan Handy with no comments

    The short answer is: Yes, and no.

    This morning, I read in the “Rocky Mountain Outlook” an article that connected Colorado’s June wildfires to massive flooding in the Canadian province of Alberta. It seemed a bit far-fetched, but intriguing.

    Colorado fires themselves did not contribute to Alberta flooding, but both were (ironically) caused by the same weather system, said Dr. John Pomeroy, director of the University of Saskatchewan’s hydrology department.

    Here’s what happened:

    In early June, as the Black Forest fire was raging just outside of Colorado Springs, a high-pressure cell was over Colorado, making conditions hot and dry–prime weather for a firestorm.

    “When you get a high pressure cell, it’s very dry air and it tends to be sunny, then you have warm and dry conditions,” Pomeroy explained. “When you get in a long term drought it’s often high pressure for a long time.”

    This cell moved north, and right around the Montana/Alberta border it became trapped in the Rockies, where it rose, cooled, and eventually moved into Alberta, where it dumped the moisture it had collected from Colorado. This effect is called a “cold low.”

    While Colorado was desperate for rain, Alberta was desperate to get out of it.

    “It was raining an inch an hour for quite a while,” Pomeroy said. “The total rainfall was 10 inches over two days. Then we had snow-melt that contributed to another 10 inches of water.”

    It was also cold in Canada–towards the end of the rain-burst,  the storm turned into snow.

    “The moisture was actually getting suck out of Colorado,” Pomeroy added. “So it was the moisture that you would have liked to have had.”

    Cold lows are typically what cause flash-flooding in Colorado in the  summer, when the monsoonal flow becomes trapped in the mountains, and ultimately have all their moisture squeeze out of them. This storm set up was hovering over Colorado in June, but “it was probably pushed out by  the high pressure cell” that was adding heat and dryness to fires, Pomeroy said.

    “It was kind of strange that it moved this far more.,” Pomeroy said of the storm. “We were getting Colorado’s weather.”






  • Flood awareness meetings next week

    Fri, May 31, 2013 by Ryan Handy with no comments

    The city of Colorado Springs will be hosting two flood awareness meetings for westside residents who live in the North and South Douglas Creek flood plains.

    If you’re not sure if you live in a flood plain, check out these preliminary maps released last week, and look up your address. There are separate maps for the each of the creeks, including camp creek.

    There are two meetings, one for residents and the other for business owners:


    Residents – North and South Douglas Creeks

    Tuesday, June 4

    6:00 – 8:30 p.m.

    Front Range Alliance Church

    5210 Centennial Blvd.


    Businesses – North and South Douglas Creeks

    Thursday, June 6

    1:00 – 3:00 p.m.

    El Paso County Citizens Service Center, Room 1020

    1675 West Garden of the Gods Rd.

  • Cost of wildfire recovery in Colorado

    Tue, May 28, 2013 by Ryan Handy with no comments

    County commissioners from El Paso and Larimer Counties will be meeting tomorrow in Denver to discuss the state of wildfire recovery projects and efforts for the Waldo Canyon and High Park fire burn scars.

    El Paso County Commissioner Sallie Clark, whose district encompasses acres of burned forest as well as Mountain Shadows, will be attending the meeting. In an email, Clark said the meeting should be mostly for planning and funding for future projects. Clark also passed along a great list of the current projects underway in El Paso County.

    Based on a round-up of the costs of recovery efforts in both counties, it looks like El Paso is coming out on top.

    Here are some highlights:

    • Thus far, recovery efforts for El Paso County have reached $10,564,833. That compares to $9,199,941 in Larimer.
    • Of all the agencies involved in recovery, the U.S. Forest Service has the most expensive of the various recovery projects, costing $5,631,869.
    • A large amount of money for recovery and flood prevention projects came to the city of Colorado Springs through a Colorado Fire Relief Fund grant.
    • The city of Manitou Springs spent $18,750 on emergency alert sirens.

    I’m working on a way to attach the spreadsheet, which lists all the costs. More to come.


  • FedEx awards grant to wildfire recovery group

    Tue, May 21, 2013 by Ryan Handy with no comments

    In honor of a $30,000 grant from FedEx to the Coalition for the Upper South Platte (CUSP), a non-profit group helping with wildfire recovery here, FedEx workers and CUSP volunteers will be working together in the Waldo Canyon burn scar this Friday on flood mitigation projects.

    From 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Friday some Colorado Springs firefighters will join the volunteer efforts, which will focus on removing debris from flood paths, filling and placing sandbags,  and planting grass seeds within the Waldo Canyon burn scar.  This is the second restoration project for local FedEx employees–last week, FedEx workers volunteered with Rocky Mountain Field Institute with burn scar rehabilitation, as well.

    CUSP has several projects going on this week that need volunteers. All you have to do visit the group’s website and register for one of the projects, including the FedEx event on Friday.



  • Emergency preparedness for the deaf

    Tue, May 14, 2013 by Ryan Handy with no comments

    The Independence Center will be hosting an emergency preparedness session for the deaf this Friday afternoon.

    The center’s  “deaf chat” will feature officials from the city of Colorado Springs and El Paso County, who will discuss how to prepare for a disaster–namely, a flood or a fire. Interpreters will be provided.

    The chat starts at 3 p.m. and goes until 5 p.m.,  at The Independence Center, 729 S. Tejon Street. Attendees are encouraged to bring food to share, but drinks and cookies will be provided. For more information, contact Matthew Ruggles at 719-602-0872, or mruggles@theindependencecenter.org.



  • Gauges in burn scar measure rainfall

    Tue, May 14, 2013 by Ryan Handy with no comments

    The National Weather Service in Pueblo has placed main five rain gauges throughout the  Waldo Canyon burn scar to measure rainfall.

    Last week, when a series of rainstorms hit El Paso County, the five gauges measured between 1.2 inches and 1.5 inches of rain. That’s a lot of rain–particularly for an area that takes only 0.2 inches of rain to cause a flash flood, when the conditions are right.

    As Gazette Columnist Barry Noreen wrote a couple of days ago, El Paso County dogged a bullet last week, because rains fell over a long period of time, blunting the impact of flowing water on the burn scar.

    “The trouble is that we may have many more bullets to dodge. Colorado history shows that even in a relatively dry year, it takes only one slow-moving thunderhead in the wrong place to create a disaster,” Noreen wrote.

    Read the entire column here.

    Of course, the weather service relies on many more rain gauges than just those five. There are gauges sprinkled throughout the county–the region, and the state, as well–that measure rain. I couldn’t find a website that specifically shows where the burn scar gauges are, but this website shows rainfall amounts in all the county gauges, and this website shows where they are located.

  • Do you know how to sandbag?

    Wed, May 8, 2013 by Ryan Handy with no comments

    Chances are, you don’t.

    When I was at the Mountain Shadows Flood Preparedness meeting Tuesday night, I noticed a few residents passing around Gazette Columnist Bill Vogrin’s Friday column, “Flashflood sandbagging off to a bad start.”

    The column has a great break down of what sandbagging is designed to do, and how poor sandbagging can actually damage your home more.

    The column featured this graphic:

    Screen Shot 2013-05-08 at 11.12.36 AM

    Take a look at the Side Streets blog for photos of the ideal–and worst–sandbagging practices and learn more about how to bag correctly. Watch this video to learn how to stack sandbags.