Colorado mudslides leave hundreds isolated in homes

Thursday, September 12, 2002

DENVER -- Heavy rains sent full-grown trees, massive boulders and rivers of mud rushing across charred hillsides in southwestern Colorado on Wednesday, isolating hundreds of residents in their homes for the second time in less than a week.

No one was in immediate danger but roads near Durango were blocked by debris 10 feet high and boulders weighing several tons apiece, said La Plata County sheriff's Lt. Dan Bender.

"What used to be a pine forest next to an upscale home is now a gaping hole and a boulder field," Bender said.

One to 3 inches of rain had fallen in the area since Tuesday afternoon. More rain was forecast later Wednesday, and authorities were bracing for more mudslides.

Bender said the rain sent mud, trees and boulders rolling down hillsides that were left barren by the 70,485-acre Missionary Ridge wildfire in June.

"It was almost running like whitewater," Bender said.

There were no reports of mud moving into homes but several driveways were buried under boulders and gouges were cut across several properties as the mudslides literally changed the course of creeks, Bender said.

Mudslides hit the same area Saturday. At least five families had to leave their homes because of the damage, and another 12 families had heavy debris inside their homes.

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