Vail Valley flooding forces home evacuations in Gypsum neighborhood
Firefighters, town officials arrive with sandbags to help slow flow of water
GYPSUM — Most years, the Eagle River threatens to flood a couple of Gypsum neighborhoods. On Monday, that flooding actually happened.
A few homes from Gypsum’s Park View neighborhood were ordered to be evacuated Monday morning. Several more are threatened as the Eagle River is forecasted to fall and rise a couple more times, according to data from the National Weather Service.
On Sunday, the river was running a foot and a half below the top of its banks. Following Sunday’s thunderstorms, it spilled over early Monday.
There’s no emergency yet, “but that could change in 10 minutes,” Gypsum Mayor Steve Carver said.
Gypsum firefighters knocked on Gregg and Mitzi Forrester’s door at 6 a.m. Monday, then went next door to Judith Evans. They advised the Forresters to move their boat and RV to higher ground. Not long afterward some of those same firefighters were back, advising the Forresters to join their boat and RV on higher ground.
By midday Monday, the Forresters’ entire yard was under the rushing water, and they had more than a foot in the crawl space under their home.
“We love living on the river … most of the time,” Gregg Forrester said.
Even with Monday’s flooding, it’s worth it, he said.
Water arrives in a hurry
Evans looked outside early Monday and saw the bright, glorious morning weather. She said her morning plans shifted from, “it’s such a beautiful morning; what shall I do today?” to packing up food and helping haul it across the cul-de-sac, which was crawling with Gypsum firefighters and town staffers. Pastor Jason Haynes and his son were there to lend a hand.
“I’m OK,” Evans repeated countless times into her phone as people called to check on her.
Blair Hawkins and the town of Gypsum crews filled and placed almost 500 sandbags around town, trying to keep flood damage to a minimum. The river spilled onto the Gypsum Creek Golf Course in several places.
Along Gypsum’s Riverview Street are several places designed for water to run from the neighborhood into the Eagle River. On Monday, the river was so high that the water was running the other way — into the neighborhoods.
Spike Kullas lives in that neighborhood on the same cul-de-sac as Evans and the Forresters. He hasn’t been evacuated … yet, he said.
“I’m an island!” he said, smiling.
The river is 1-100th of a foot from a record high, according to the National Weather Service’s Advanced Hydrologic Prediction Service.
Kullas and the others remember the last time it was close to this high. That was 2010 — another epic snow year.
The Eagle River broke through a logjam around Minturn, and Kullas answered a 3 a.m. knock on his door — a town official telling him the water was on its way.
He’s not surprised at this year’s high water.
“With the snowpack so high, this was bound to happen,” he said.
In 2010, inmates from the Eagle County jail helped with flood efforts. Complete with a shotgun-toting deputy, it looked a little like something out of a movie. Kullas and his wife were so happy to have them there that they fed the inmates blueberry muffins.
Inmates — not the same ones — pitched in again on Monday, filling sandbags that were then trucked to where they were needed.
Epic whitewater season
If you’re Eagle Tubing owner Ken Hoeve, Monday’s river levels are like a “20-inch powder day.”
“This is the greatest whitewater season I can remember,” an enthusiastic Hoeve said Monday afternoon. “The last thing people should hear is, ‘Don’t go.’ You’re here at the best rafting time ever!”
The river expert encouraged people to enjoy the river, but urged caution. Use proper gear, helmets and a flotation device.
“Don’t go out there in jeans and a water-ski jacket,” he said.
Go with a professional rafting company, he said. If you’re still apprehensive, take a trip from Gypsum to Dotsero, where the river tends to run flatter and calmer.
In fact, Hoeve said he usually rents tubes and river toys to use in Eagle’s whitewater park. He wasn’t on Monday. The river was just too high.
Hoeve counseled patience. The river will drop soon, probably in a day or two.
“Know your limits and respect the power of the river,” Hoeve said as the river roared past.
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