August 7, 2008

Heavy Rain Floods Greeley Streets

By David Young, Greeley Tribune, Colo.

Aug. 7--Standing in more than a foot of dirty water at the door of the Vineyard Church in downtown Greeley, firefighters stared through the glass doors at the water seeping into the entrance.

Flashing lights illuminated the murky waters, while the men, responding to a fire alarm Wednesday night, made it was clear water was more of an issue.

"There's no fire," said fire engineer Greg Holmes as he waded around the side of the building.

Pastor Michael Webb and music director Bob Olivier made it downtown to the church at 1015 9th Ave.

"Wow, that is a lot of water," Olivier said as he arrived.

Firefighters decided not to open the doors to keep the water from flooding the building -- even with the sounding alarm.

Webb said he had never seen the flooding this bad and expects that some expensive audio visual equipment in the basement to be damaged.

"This is worse than I expected," Webb said.

Directly north of the church, Joe Shelor, city of Greeley public works facility manager, and Bill Sterling, city of Greeley public works director, assessed the damage at public works building, 1001 9th Ave.

Water flowed through the front door creating a little pool in the entry way.

"That's the worst for this building," Sterling said. "The City Hall annex across the street has no basement and it is going right through the doors."

Drenched in water, Sterling slogged through the building to ensure water hadn't breached any other entrances.

Through much of the evening Wednesday, heavy rainfall dumped from 1-3 inches of rain throughout Weld County. According to Greeley police spokesman Sgt. Joe Tymkowych, many of Greeley's streets and low-lying areas flooded, and there were two crashes caused by hydroplaning tires actually floating on the water at too high of a speed.

Union Colony Fire spokesman Dale Lyman said the department was getting dozens of calls on flooded basements and water inside power boxes, but no one had been injured.

At the height of the calls, firefighters determined to only respond to life-threatening situations, and the flooded basements would wait until after the rains subsided.

In Weld County, Undersheriff Margie Martinez said there were many flooded roads, and some washed-out roads, according to the deputies reporting Wednesday night.

In Platteville, where a tornado watch was issued, 12 power lines were down and about 1,700 people were expected to be without power from 9 p.m. until about 6 a.m. today, according to Mark Stutz, spokesperson for Xcel Energy. Another 1,000 people were without power in Wellington, he said.

Some embraced the heavy rainfall and flooding.

Sisters Ashley Carter, 21, and Ravini Carter, 20, both of Greeley, splashed and played in knee deep waters at the corner of 6th Street and 9th Avenue.

With a plastic Tweety Bird umbrella, Ashley chased her sister through the middle of the street kicking water into the air.

"We didn't know how deep it was so we thought we would check," Ashley said. "It's fun, except for the severe tornado warnings at first."

The 10th Street corridor heading into downtown turned into a river as smaller cars stalled out with water above their tires.

Employees at the Arby's at 10th Street and 30th Avenue took a break from work to play in the waist-deep waters out front of the restaurant.

Arby's employee Cecilia Cruz, 17, of Greeley, ready to cool off following record high temperatures, nearly submerged herself in the waters on the shoulder of 10th Street.

"We took advantage of the rain, so we thought we would go for a swim," Cruz said.

Cruz's fellow employee Crystal Ramos, 20, also joined in on the rare swim break.

"At first it was scary, but then she pulled me in and it was fun," said Ramos who had never seen such flooding before in Greeley.

-- Reporters Mike Peters and Jakob Rodgers contributed to this report.


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