Isolated thunderstorms caused flash flooding Sunday north of Durango, including mud and debris flows across at least three La Plata County roads.
The storm materialized about 3:20 p.m. when the National Weather Service in Grand Junction observed wind gusts of up to 60 mph. The disturbance moved west to east across the Animas Valley and northern city limits, dumping up to an inch of rain in some locations, said Butch Knowlton, director of La Plata County’s Office of Emergency Management.
“It started developing over the 416 (Fire) area, so we were concerned about that,” he said. “But it really intensified as it moved away from the 416 area and moved to the east side of the Animas Valley and down toward Durango.”
The torrential rains, which included hail, caused flooding on county roads 203, 250 (East Animas Road) and 240 (Florida Road), Knowlton said. Road and bridge crews used heavy equipment to clear the roads, especially in the 2700 block of East Animas Road, where large rocks prevented sedans from driving through the flood area, he said.
One SUV station wagon high-centered on a rock.
“Four of them were out standing in water up to their knees trying to push the car off the rock,” Knowlton said.
The storm unloaded a pelting of hail in some areas, including pebbles up to three-eighths inch in size, he said.
Knowlton was unaware of any significant property damage resulting from the rains, although some residential yards were severely flooded. And no county roads were officially closed, although debris flows did make it difficult if not impossible for some vehicles to pass.
Intense isolated storms are not unusual this time of year in Southwest Colorado, but several residents said they had not seen a storm as intense as Sunday’s for about 15 years, Knowlton said. And he agreed with that assessment, saying it has been at least 10 to 12 years since a rain storm impacted the irrigation canals in the Animas Valley like Sunday’s storm.
The National Weather Service issued a severe thunderstorm warning at 3:20 p.m. “We can get just a little disturbance moving through ... just enough to cause enough lift to get a little thunderstorm going,” said Tom Renwick, meteorologist with the National Weather Service. “If it’s strong enough and there’s enough moisture, we’ll get exactly what happened down in Durango.”
The monsoons are expected to produce another push of moisture later this week, perhaps on Thursday and Friday, but it will be mostly confined to the San Juan Mountains, Renwick said.
“It won’t be like the one that we just saw, it will be much weaker,” he said. “But still, any precip is good precip.”