The fire was a surprise, but the flood shouldn't be. This time, there's a chance to save everything from money to family photo albums to lives, and County Commissioner Sallie Clark says she hopes people will take advantage.
"We don't know when, but the rains are going to come at some point," she says. "Folks need to really be aware that there's a 30-day wait [for flood insurance]. So, if you're in an area that's in a major pour point [where a creek or waterway comes off the mountains], or you're in an area that's likely to get flooded, even if you weren't in a floodplain before, you will be now."
To get a sense of your risk, find information at floodsmart.gov and rmiia.org, and flood maps at tinyurl.com/femagovmaps1 and tinyurl.com/femagovmaps2. Be aware that insurance is available for homeowners and renters, though it won't cover everything.
As for other ways to be prepared, local experts offer the following tips:
• Buy a hazardous weather alert radio, available at most drugstores.
• Register for reverse 911 emergency notification alerts at elpasoteller911.org.
• Sign up for rain-gauge alerts in your area at waterdata.usgs.gov/co/nwis/current/?type=precip.
• Keep an eye on the weather. While flash flood warnings won't likely come until a half inch of rain has fallen, flash flood watches will come much earlier. NOAA also has a weekly "hazardous weather outlook" report under its "Watches and warnings" tab, which is updated daily. Check it at weather.gov/pueblo.
• Don't wait to be notified. Manitou Springs is the only community with sirens, and those will only be heard close to Fountain Creek. If you are in a floodplain, get to higher ground immediately once you see heavy rain or flooding. And stay far from waterways during a storm. (Ogling can be deadly.)
• Have a plan for your pets and children. Ask a neighbor to evacuate them in the event that you are away from home.
• Put together a 72-hour emergency kit in case you need to evacuate. Check here for good ideas: ready.gov/build-a-kit.
• If you live in a Ute Pass community, be aware that U.S. Highway 24 could become blocked for days or even weeks. Keep supplies at your home. If you need regular medical attention, make sure you have plenty of medication and supplies, and that you have alternate plans to reach a doctor or hospital if the highway is closed.
• Take photographs of all your belongings for insurance purposes and store them in a safe place, like a safe-deposit box that's out of the floodplain, or on the cloud. If you have irreplaceable items, perhaps store them away from a flood-risk home, at least for the next few years.
• Learn more about Colorado Springs neighborhood meetings about flood risks, or schedule a meeting for a group, at 385-5957. County meetings are currently being planned, with information to be posted at shr.elpasoco.com.