GRAND COUNTY, Colo (CBS4) – Flood preparations are underway in Grand County as incoming rain threatens the vulnerable East Troublesome burn scar.
“We’re watching for rain events that are a quarter of an inch in 15 minutes or a half an inch under an hour,” said Joel Cochran, Director of Emergency Services for Grand County.
Thousands of sandbags have already been distributed across Grand County, but on Friday volunteers with Grand County, Grand Lake Fire, and Northern Water got to work filling more. Their goal is to have another 2,000 sandbags to distribute by next week.
Thanks to the donation of a sandbagging machine and hopper equipment from the Red Cross, volunteers made quick work.
“Being an Air Force kid, I always grew up coming back to Grand Lake and so not really having a home, being a military kid, Grand Lake has always been home and so being able to come back, work here as a firefighter/paramedic, and then be able to help out the community on my days off, you know it’s definitely something I‘m super passionate about,” said Benjamin Hochhalter, with Grand Lake Fire.
Hochhalter was among the first to respond to the fire along with other local agencies. On Friday he was among the many helping hands, filling sandbags.
“We had a really strong offensive strategy once the fire was here. But you know like we say in sports, the best offense is a good defense. That’s kind of what we’re doing now is building a strong defense, so we don’t have to get extremely offensive in the future,” he said.
The county has been working closely with the National Weather Service in Boulder, which is keeping a close eye on the burn scar. The installation of rain gauges has also helped.
“We’ve been adding precipitation gauges across the burn scar. Prior to that, we just had one river forecasting gauge in this area and there’s about 200,000 burned acres and so we have a lot of geography to keep track of,” Cochran said. “The boulder national weather service radar is east of DIA and sometimes has some difficulties seeing localized storms that form here so we’re kind of trying to ground truth that with the precipitation gauges and we don’t know if it’ll be this weekend or next weekend.”
Cochran does know, there will be plenty of advanced warning for the community when it comes to approaching storms. The best way to do that is to sign up for the county’s emergency alert system.
If you’re in an area with poor coverage, the county is providing NOAA weather radios, free of charge.
“Have a family plan, know what to do, protect their property, take care of their pets and their loved ones,” said Cochran.