The day dawned cloudy on Sept. 16 but water no longer fell from the sky, and a battered but still standing downtown Evergreen appeared mostly ready for commerce after a week of record rains and flooding slammed Jefferson County.
Damage in South Jeffco appeared limited to some flooded yards and basements. The Summerset Festival at Clement Park was canceled for the first time in its 29-year history, and some high school sports games were postponed.
But in the Jeffco foothills, ramifications from last week’s relentless rains were more severe.
The sun finally returned to Evergreen on Sept. 17, and a battered but still standing downtown returned to a semblance of normality after a week of record rains and flooding pummeled the mountain area.
A total of 6.5 inches of rain fell on the Evergreen area from Sept. 9-16, sending Bear Creek out of its banks below the Evergreen Lake Dam on Sept. 13 and inundating the Cactus Jack’s building and the public garden. Evacuation orders were issued for the canyon, parts of Morrison and along Upper Bear Creek.
The flooding closed the Highway 73/74 intersection and Upper Bear Creek Road, and traffic was diverted from downtown. Many downtown businesses closed their doors Sept. 13, and classes at Evergreen schools were canceled on that day and on the following Monday.
Members of the National Guard mobilized in downtown Evergreen late on Sept. 15 and rolled downstream to Kittredge in military vehicles, armed with sandbags and muscle and headed for the places where Bear Creek was overflowing its banks.
About 10 p.m. Sept. 15, as the military trucks idled on Main Street, a light drizzle was still falling, and the roar of Bear Creek was made even louder by the darkness and by the doubt about whether floodwaters would spill into downtown.
No injuries were reported in the Evergreen area or in Bear Creek Canyon.
On Sept. 17, the majority of businesses were open downtown, and the creek level had dropped. Both lanes of Main Street were open, and residents and businesses began assessing the damage.
Throughout the county, Jeffco officials estimated, 14 homes were destroyed and 215 were damaged. Some 24 commercial properties sustained damage in the county.
Upper Bear Creek Road remained closed until Sept. 20, and the amount of damage done to homes and the road itself had yet to be evaluated.
Bear Creek at Morrison on the morning of Sept. 17 was at 8.2 feet, well below the 9-foot flood stage and below the flooding levels it reached the previous week.
Dam reported to be sound
Despite the high water levels, the Evergreen Metropolitan District said all its facilities remained operational and that tap water was safe to drink. EMD said the sewage collection system was at peak levels, particularly through the lower areas along creeks and drainages, and asked residents to limit water use.
The Sheriff’s Office reported that engineers had inspected the dam at Evergreen Lake and gave assurances that it was stable.
Evergreen High, Evergreen Middle School, Wilmot Elementary, Parmalee Elementary, Bergen Valley Elementary and Bergen Meadow Elementary reopened on Sept. 17. The district said it would appeal to the Colorado Department of Education for a waiver so students will not have to make up those days.
Downtown was relatively unscathed, except for the small triangular-shaped parking lot just east of Creekside Cellars. Floodwaters eroded about half of the parking lot, and several large cement barriers fell into the creek. Xcel trucks had to stabilize two utility poles.
When the flooding began
The week’s ceaseless rains finally caught up to Evergreen and Bear Creek on the morning of Sept. 13. Three Level 1 emergency-notification calls went out to the Evergreen area, urging residents to be ready to evacuate.
On Sept. 13, the Sheriff’s Office said the creek near Morrison was just inches shy of the 9-foot flood stage, and deputies went door to door in Morrison to ask residents to evacuate. The last time Bear Creek flooded to that level was in 1938, when the creek reached 9.2 feet, said Mark Techmeyer, spokesman for the Sheriff’s Office.
At one point, the intersection of Highway 74 and Forest Hill Road in downtown Evergreen had water flowing over Forest Hill Road. Debris had lodged under the bridge, causing more flooding on the road and in the Evergreen National Bank drive-thru, Techmeyer said.
About 20 firefighters were stationed at Evergreen Fire/Rescue Stations 1 and 2 during the worst of the flooding. All of the firefighters with water-rescue certification had their gear with them.
Other closures in Evergreen during the flooding included the Evergreen Golf Course and Wulf Rec Center. The Evergreen Lake House and all trails at Evergreen Lake were closed for a time, and the Oktoberfest celebration was delayed till Oct. 6 and moved to Buchanan Park.
Scott Robson, Evergreen Park and Recreation District executive director, said there was no damage to the Lake House and it had not flooded. However, two weddings scheduled there were rescheduled or canceled.
The parks crews assisted Jeffco deputies with closing roads and cleaning debris at the height of the flooding, Robson said.
“We’re helping where we can,” Robson said. “We have staff who are experienced with the equipment — that helps at a time like this.”
Robson said that, as the water subsided, parks crews would make a full assessment of district facilities and trails.