SUMMIT COUNTY, Colo. (CBS4) – Flooding from the Snake River near Keystone forced the evacuation of the small mountain community of Montezuma and is destroying the only road in and out of town.
The river began to crest about 1 p.m. on Tuesday, but rising flood waters ate away the road. Culvert-clogging debris caused the problem, sending water over the Snake’s banks.
Authorities are trying to save a mile of roadway while destroying a smaller section.
“[The] road and bridge [department] is making plans right now to tear out the bridge where the washout is and install some very large culverts,” Jeff Berino, the deputy chief with the Lake Dillon Fire Department, told CBS4. “However, we don’t know how long that is going to take.”
Water on the south side of the road started undercutting the asphalt, making the road impassable.
“I was thinking, it’s just the culvert flowing over the road, not like this,” resident Jeff Fazendin said.
CBS4 followed workers who employed massive machinery to clear boulders from the road to make it safe for passenger cars.
The evacuation notice lasted until 6:30 p.m. Any residents who didn’t leave by then could be stuck in Montezuma for a few days.
“I’m glad I was following him,” Fazendin said. “There were a couple spots on the road [that were] a little iffy.”
The problem could just be starting.
“We still have a lot of snow up there and peak runoff isn’t until 10 to midnight [Tuesday],” Berino said.
Right now, there’s only one road in and out of Montezuma. A jeep trail acts as a second way out, but it’s covered in 25 feet of snow.
Officials are concerned water from a planned bridge wipeout could destroy beaver dams and send a larger rush downstream.