Englewood floods: ‘I don’t think city was prepared for this’

Neighbors ask if city could have prevented damage from flood

Posted 7/30/18

An overwhelmed Beth Minnick paced around a dirt-covered porch less than a day after a flood turned a south Englewood neighborhood into what residents said resembled a river — water rushing between …

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Englewood floods: ‘I don’t think city was prepared for this’

Neighbors ask if city could have prevented damage from flood

Posted

An overwhelmed Beth Minnick paced around a dirt-covered porch less than a day after a flood turned a south Englewood neighborhood into what residents said resembled a river — water rushing between and into homes, taking one life and upending several others.

And Minnick, a landlord of a home in one of the hardest-hit areas, wondered if it was preventable.

“My reaction to this storm is intolerable anger,” Minnick said July 25. “All I wanna know is what went wrong.”

In what neighbors said took only 10 to 20 minutes, waters overtook window wells, filled stairways to basement duplex units and trapped one woman at 4650 S. Acoma St., who later died. The Arapahoe County Coroner’s Office said the probable cause of death for Rachael Marie Haber, 32, was drowning. Haber, of Aurora, was taken to Swedish Medical Center and died in the early morning of July 25.

Doug Cunningham, 53, said his home has come close to flooding “a dozen times” in the 15 years he lived in the basement unit at 4661 S. Acoma St. The water would seep in through the window a bit, but he had never seen it like this. “The whole area turned into a lake, and I get two rivers on either side of the house.”

He said he had complained to Englewood about the risk. “Englewood says there’s no problem. Obviously, there’s a problem.”

City declares area local disaster

Minnick, 53, has owned Cunningham’s unit since 1998 and said she recalled a storm more than a decade ago that flooded the area as well. Minnick expected the city to make changes to the drainage system after that storm, she said.

“Could this have been prevented? Absolutely, in my opinion,” Minnick said.

Angelo Maldonado, 41, the upstairs tenant at 4661. S. Acoma St. — where water pushed into his kitchen and rose nearly to the ceiling in the basement unit — echoed Minnick’s criticism, as did Ian Fisher, who lives nearby to the south on that block.

“I don’t think the city infrastructure was prepared for this,” Fisher, 29, said.

Some properties in the city may need to be condemned because of flood damage, said Alison Carney, spokeswoman for the city, but the city still needs to inspect them to determine if they’re habitable. Carney provided answers to questions emailed to City Manager Eric Keck and Brad Power, director of the city’s Community Development Department.

Keck and Power did not respond to two emailed questions asking whether changes to the drainage system are necessary to adequately drain more flood water.

But the City of Englewood released a statement the afternoon of July 27 noting much of the damage from the storm was concentrated in and around Englewood.

“The damage and loss to life, homes, property, personal belongings and much more is truly tragic,” the statement said.

Mayor Linda Olson signed a resolution declaring a local disaster on July 26, another statement said. It allows the city to work with Arapahoe County and the Colorado Division of Homeland Security and Emergency Management to determine eligibility for recovery assistance, according to the city. Representatives from the city, state and the U.S. Small Business Administration will assess damage of impacted homes and businesses to determine eligibility for assistance, the city said.

“Homeowners and businesses can assist with the process by being available to speak to officials as they conduct the door-to-door assessments,” the city said. If the city qualifies for assistance — it won’t know until Aug. 1 — officials may conduct more door-to-door contacts.

City’s topography contributed to flooding

The city added that the storm’s severity is associated with a 50-to-100-year event, meaning a storm of that magnitude has a 1 to 2 percent chance of happening in any given year.

The city cited analysis by the Urban Drainage and Flood Control District. About two inches of rain fell in 50-55 minutes between 6 p.m. and 7 p.m. near Acoma Street and West Tufts Avenue, and 2 1/2 inches of rain was estimated to the west, over the South Platte River, during that time, according to the analysis. A typical storm with a two-year frequency would result in about one inch of water in one hour, the city said in a statement.

The city declared a disaster verbally on July 25, the first statement said.

“When the city was built out, the master drainage system was not designed for this type” of storm, the statement said.

Doug Cohn, a 71-year-old member of the Englewood Historical Preservation Society, said he’s never seen a “hurricane-type storm like that” in his life. He said the topographical makeup of Englewood — its hills and slopes — led to water flowing to where the flooding occurred around Minnick’s neighborhood. But even farther north near East Dartmouth Avenue and South Downing Street, floods rushed through the area, Cohn said.

“I had about two feet of water flowing down my street,” said Cohn, adding that a creek in his area floods regularly.

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