Rockport 5 Fire leaves land scarred, vulnerable to flash flooding

SUMMIT COUNTY — Residents who evacuated during the Rockport 5 Fire spent their first night back in their homes Monday evening. On day one, Mother Nature brought more lightning with rain.

The storm moved out of the area without causing any flooding or mudslides but hydrologists say it’s a reminder of a potential threat.

The rain came pouring down Monday afternoon as returning homeowner Eric St. Pierre was cleaning his home following the fire.

“We had a whole freezer, we lost all that,” St. Pierre said.

St. Pierre spent part of his afternoon tossing out spoiled food.

“We’re gonna open the windows and air out the house, that’s about it, the next step is to try and help people,” he said. “There’s people up there who lost a lot.”

A few hours after turning the lights on, the National Weather Service issued a flash flood warning for the burn scar. A lightning storm pounced on the area for about an hour and a half.

It wasn’t strong enough to trigger a mudslide but hydrologists warn that slides are a real threat following a fire of this magnitude.

“About half an inch an hour has typically kicked off debris flows. If you get more than that you typically get bigger debris flows. We’ve just had an inch, according to the radar,” said hydrologist Brian McInerney with the National Weather Service. “We’re waiting for the data from the precept gauge right there, the automated weather station and that will tell us how much we had compared to the radar.”

Residents living on the lower end of the drainage area are worried about the possibility of flash flooding.

Summit County officials expect it to take a month to put up debris basins and do aerial re-seeding on the mountain. St. Pierre is grateful plans are at least underway.

“I think it’s a great idea to control it before anything else could happen, next spring there will obviously be a lot more water coming here than for the rest of the summer at least,” he said. “If they can do something to eliminate the risk, that would be wonderful.”

A federal grant for up to $500,000 will help pay for the mitigation efforts. Federal officials will be at the burn scar, this week, scouting out areas where debris basins will be placed.

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