Friday, June 19, 2009

Homeowners grapple with mudslides threats

Up to 25 homes and cabins are in closed areas of Warm Springs


By JASON KAUFFMAN
Express Staff Writer

Mudslides along Warm Springs Road, shown here just beyond where the pavement ends, have been a challenge for the owners of some 25 homes and cabins in the area that county official have had to repeatedly close to public use in recent weeks. Except when the slides have blocked access into the rural area, the county has been allowing the residents limited access to their homes. Photo by Willy Cook

Residents living beyond the point along Warm Springs Road where county officials have kept the public from traveling for much of the past few weeks have certainly endured a challenging spring.

The rural residential area has been hit hard by mudslides that have swept over the road repeatedly due to the heavy rainfall the region has received almost constantly since the beginning of June. Crews from the Blaine County Road and Bridge Department have been busy trying to clear these slides before the next one occurs.

The latest of these mud and debris flows swept across the road late Wednesday afternoon. And once again, homes in the upper Board Ranch and Frenchman's Bend areas beyond where the pavement ends were cut off from reaching Ketchum.

According to information from the Blaine County Assessor's Office, there are about 25 homes and cabins beyond the end of the pavement on Warm Springs Road, where the county has placed closure signs in recent weeks. As of Thursday morning, the latest of these closures was still in place.

Board Ranch resident Byron Karrys has been watching mudslides flow over his property for days. Others farther out on Warm Springs Road have similar issues.

Only residents of the area have been allowed to enter the area to reach their homes—at least when slides aren't covering the road.

Chuck Turner, Blaine County Disaster Services Coordinator, said Thursday that the residents of the affected area have been very cooperative and have been "taking it all in stride." He said many of the homes above the closure point are permanent residences.

Turner described the residents of the area as capable types who are ready for whatever Mother Nature throws at them.

"In the winter it's the snow. In the spring it's the slides," he said.

For the most part, the real issue out Warm Springs Creek has been the impact of the numerous slides on the road itself. Turner said the structures in the area are not in immediate danger.

"In general, those homes out there are in good shape," he said.

Turner said residents of the area have actually been quite helpful for local authorities throughout the several-week ordeal. After the first series of slides closed off the road in early June, they provided a two-member recreation crew from the Sawtooth National Forest who were working in the area with a place to sleep, he said.

They've also helped report new slides.

"It's a community spirit out there," Turner said.

He also commended the county Road and Bridge crews working to keep the road open.

"They've done an excellent job keeping that road clear," he said.

Though the valley is expected to remain somewhat drier through today, the National Weather Service is calling for a return of rain and thunderstorms this weekend. Turner said a mid-valley weather station out Ohio Gulch measured a whopping 1.13 inches of rain just on Wednesday alone.

Jason Kauffman: jkauffman@mtexpress.com




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