Academy, community encourage flood preparation

Lameek Fennell clears debris from the front steps of a house in Manitou Springs, Colo., July 2, 2013. Significant rainfall in areas affected by the 2012 Waldo Canyon Fire triggered a flash flood that damaged several homes along the Black Canyon watershed. Fennell, an employee for a local landscaping company, volunteered to help with cleanup efforts. (U.S. Air Force photo/Don Branum)

Lameek Fennell clears debris from the front steps of a house in Manitou Springs, Colo., July 2, 2013. Significant rainfall in areas affected by the 2012 Waldo Canyon Fire triggered a flash flood that damaged several homes along the Black Canyon watershed. Fennell, an employee for a local landscaping company, volunteered to help with cleanup efforts. (U.S. Air Force photo/Don Branum)

Skyler Cabell clears debris from the front steps of a house in Manitou Springs, Colo., July 2, 2013. Significant rainfall in areas affected by the 2012 Waldo Canyon Fire triggered a flash flood that damaged several homes along the Black Canyon watershed. Cabell, an employee for a local landscaping company, volunteered to help with cleanup efforts. (U.S. Air Force photo/Don Branum)

Skyler Cabell clears debris from the front steps of a house in Manitou Springs, Colo., July 2, 2013. Significant rainfall in areas affected by the 2012 Waldo Canyon Fire triggered a flash flood that damaged several homes along the Black Canyon watershed. Cabell, an employee for a local landscaping company, volunteered to help with cleanup efforts. (U.S. Air Force photo/Don Branum)

U.S. AIR FORCE ACADEMY, Colo. -- Officials at the Air Force Academy and the surrounding community are asking residents on the west side of El Paso County to educate themselves on the risks of flooding to their homes in the wake of a flood that severely damaged at least three houses in Manitou Springs July 1.

Low-lying areas of the Academy in the West Monument Creek watershed may flood if nearby areas affected by the Waldo Canyon Fire receive substantial rain, but base housing areas are not at risk, said Andre Mouton, the 10th Civil Engineer Squadron's Emergency Management Division chief.

Federal Emergency Management Agency officials prepared flood risk maps after the Waldo Canyon Fire. Those maps identify at-risk areas across El Paso County. The most at-risk areas lie on the southwest side of Colorado Springs and along U.S. Highway 24, including Manitou Springs, Garden of the Gods, the Pleasant Valley subdivision, Old Colorado City and Fountain.

A swift downpour of about 0.6 inch in less than 30 minutes triggered a flood in the Black Canyon watershed north of Manitou Springs July 1. The box canyon funneled water, mud and debris from the Waldo Canyon burn scar onto Canon Avenue, partially submerging several houses. City and county officials began their response shortly after the flooding subsided.

"This is the wake-up call that we didn't want to happen," said El Paso County Commissioner Sallie Clark. "It wasn't a question of if, but when. This wouldn't have been normal before, but now, because of the fire, debris goes downhill quickly."

Manitou Springs and other areas remain at risk. Residents who think they may live in a flood plain may check an interactive FEMA map at http://bit.ly/NBib8B.

Clark asked local media agencies to help raise awareness of what people can do to prepare themselves. First, El Paso County residents should register their cell phones for Reverse 911 at the El Paso-Teller County 911 website, www.elpasoteller911.org. The Colorado Springs website recommends residents assemble an emergency preparedness kit with at least 72 hours of supplies, including vital documents, medication, phones, pets, money and photos of the possessions in their homes.

During a flash flood, anyone in a flood plain should immediately seek higher ground and look out for streams, drainage channels, canyons and other areas that might be prone to flash flooding. Residents evacuating their homes should turn off their utilities at the main switches or valves if instructed to do so. Under no circumstances should anyone attempt to walk or drive through flood water.

After a flood, residents should wait until they receive word from local authorities to return to their homes. They should avoid floodwater, which may contain dangerous contaminants, and use extreme caution when entering buildings that may have sustained hidden damage from the flood.

Anyone who would like to volunteer to help flood recovery or fire recovery efforts can register at www.bffassistance.com. The Colorado Springs Emergency Preparedness and Safety Guide is available to download at http://bit.ly/17RSuOu.