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Flash floods caused $1.7 million in public infrastructure damage

The cost counts specifically for damage to public infrastructure, which includes things like roads, bridges and culverts that are washed out.

LARIMER COUNTY, Colo. — Jerry Wilkerson and his wife would visit their cabin in the Poudre Canyon on Black Hollow Road five to six times a year from their home in Missouri. 

But one month ago, their drive was cut short, right in front of the neighborhood they knew so well. 

"But I saw a little flash of light in front of me when I got my front tires on the bridge. So I stopped. It was one of the transformers on a power pole," Wilkerson told 9NEWS over the phone. 

Floods that roared through Larimer County destroyed several homes and killed several people in the Poudre Canyon on July 20.

The structure of Wilkerson's longtime family cabin stayed in tact as the debris flow roared through, but it didn't stop it from being completely flooded out. 

"Virtually everything in the cabin was ruined in the next 10 days after this happened," he said. "Over a period of two long days, we cleaned out all the junk and everything that was in the cabin."

But in addition to the several destroyed homes off of Black Hollow Road, there was also damage to several roads and other public infrastructure. 

Credit: Barbara Wilkerson
Debris sits outside of Jerry Wilkerson's home following the Poudre Canyon flood on July 20.

The cost

Lori Hodges, the director of Emergency Management for Larimer County, said the estimated cost of damage for the recent flooding is around $1.7 million. 

That cost only counts for damage to public infrastructure, which includes things like roads, bridges and culverts that are washed out.

"We've had a lot more damage that's on private lands, but we don't have any way to quantify that," Hodges said.

Among other areas, the main parts of Larimer County the damage cost applies to is the Miller Fork, Black Creek (flowing into the Big Thompson river), County Road 44H (Buckhorn Road), areas around Glen Haven and the Poudre Canyon.

"These storms cause impacts that happen extremely quickly. And so everybody needs to have a plan," she said. 

She added that drainages in particular are especially at risk for any rain event right now, and also shared the status of the land where several cabins once stood near Black Hollow Road. 

"The Black Hollow area, the Colorado Geological Survey has actually stated in a report that people should not live in the Black Hollow area, at least for the next few months, because it's so unstable," she said. "For other areas, it's really about making sure that you have a plan, you can get warned and that you can get to safety in case we are having severe weather."

Credit: Barbara Wilkerson
The inside of Jerry Wilkerson's cabin in the Poudre Canyon.

What happens next

As of now, there isn't an exact timeline for when all of the repairs and improvements could happen, but Hodges explained that there are plans in place. 

"And so we're going to really need to look at on County Road 44H do we need. We already had it in our plan to upgrade those culverts. So we'll do the upgrades. But right now with the the weather system the way that it is, it would make more sense to do that when it's a little bit more stable," she said. "We have also done assessments for the emergency watershed protection program, which would allow us to do some work for structure protection, erosion control, and then also debris in the streamways. So we're working on that right now in five priority areas."

She also explained what generally could happen with ideas for when it comes to mitigation efforts. 

"There are some walls that could be put up there, some barrier bags, there's also debris catchments that could be made. You know, with the Black Hollow area, that debris flow is so large that none of that stuff probably would have stopped that debris from happening. But in some of the smaller debris flows, a lot of those measures could protect those homes," she said. 

Additionally, she said that they're working with the state to see if Governor Jared Polis could send a request for a FEMA declaration to the federal government in order to help with the costs of some of the public damage. 

"And then that might open the door for some funding that might be available for some private lands as well," Hodges said. 

As for Wilkerson, he said as of now, rebuilding their cabin is still up in the air, and hopes that cleanup of the area moves faster.  

"We just, we have to just sit and wait and see what's got to be done," he said.

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