Friday, September 6, 2013

In Greenhorn, scarred hillsides slide

Some residents suffer from Mother Nature’s 1-2 punch

Express Staff Writer

Greenhorn Gulch resident Alex Woodard watches as a backhoe clears mud from his driveway Wednesday afternoon. A mudslide from a fire-scarred hillside Monday night left about 5 feet of mud layered over his driveway and against his garage doors. Photo by Roland Lane

The Beaver Creek Fire burned for three weeks, leaving hillsides barren of sagebrush, trees and grasses in many parts of the Wood River Valley. Torrential rains that followed the fire on Monday night sent devastating mudslides down these barren slopes.
    Although no one was reported hurt by the slides, the threat of continued mudslides will continue if more rain comes to the valley.
    The log home of singer-songwriter Alex Woodard on Greenhorn Road north of Hailey was saved by firefighters, but the residence was nearly engulfed in a mudslide Monday night.
    “It’s been a real test. We were breathing a little easier after the fire ripped through here. I didn’t have my mind on mud,” Woodard said.
    “It’s a reminder of who is in charge here. It’s Mother Nature, not us.”
    Woodard and a group of family and friends were watching a spectacular display of lightning above Greenhorn Gulch at 10 p.m. on Monday, when the rains began.
    Woodard went into a nearby field to bring in his horses, when a lightning flash illuminated a waist-high layer of mud that had covered his driveway and sealed shut his garage doors.
    Woodard estimates that the slide occurred in a matter of minutes.
    “I thought I was seeing things. I never heard it. It was this crazy silent disaster.”
    By Wednesday, crews were working to remove what could amount to 200 cubic yards of debris from around his home.
    Although he does not have flood insurance, Woodard hopes the disaster will be covered under his fire insurance.
    “It is clear from everyone’s opinion here that this was fire-related,” he said.
    Woodard remains upbeat in the face of a one-two punch from Mother Nature.
    “We have no intention of going anywhere. This has been going on since long before we got here,” he said.
    Ketchum Fire Chief Mike Elle said multiple mudslides occurred in Greenhorn Gulch Monday night.
    “Several of them hit homes, but there were no 911 calls made and therefore we never responded to the event,” he said. “There is not much we could have done unless someone was trapped or utility lines had been damaged.”
    Utility lines are buried on the privately maintained roads in Greenhorn Gulch.
    Elle said he drove along Greenhorn Road Tuesday.
    “It was pretty amazing. There are multiple mudflows down around homes and out across pastures,” he said.
    Elle said the U.S. Forest Service is making an assessment of fire-damaged hillsides, including plans to re-seed some areas to prevent erosion, but that residents in slide-prone areas should beware.
    “It is important for people to realize that this will happen more than once,” he said. “You could get more slides if there are more downpours. They could run the same path, only on a larger scale.”

Animal Shelter recovering from mudslide
Kennels, buildings and driveways at the Animal Shelter of the Wood River Valley in Croy Canyon have been damaged by mudslides in the wake of the Beaver Creek Fire. The shelter staff is in the process of assessing the damage and forming an engineering plan to prepare for further slides. “The costs are piling up faster than the mud,” stated a news release issued on Thursday. “Something that would be a huge help is to come and walk a dog. Due to the mud, the dogs have not been getting nearly as much outside time.”

Tony Evans:

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