Flood waters in Sterling force restaurants to close, invade Overland Trail Museum

Town ordered not to flush

STERLING, Colo. - All of the rain that caused extreme flooding along the Front Range is flowing to the east. As a result, the Logan County town of Sterling is now dealing with flood damage and evacuations.

"I'm nervous, because I don't know what I'm facing," said Esther Ivanov, who was forced to leave her home Sunday. "I know my house is under water, but I don't know anything about my house."

Highway 6 runs along the east side of town and usually crosses the South Platte River. On Monday, the roles are reversed. The river crosses that main road in several new channels.

Located just south of Highway 6, alongside Interstate 76, the Overland Trail Museum is partially under water. The museum's oldest building, which was built in 1936, is hardest hit.

"We're heartbroken looking at the museum," said museum curator Kay Rich.

The museum employees scrambled to save the collections of artifacts inside as the water began to rise.

 "Our Native American pottery, blankets, textiles, photo albums, things like that are all up and safe," Rich said.

Just up the road, a Best Western Hotel and a Cenex gas station are partially submerged.

"The DOC was kind enough to take us up there to turn off all the pumps so we can avoid any kind of spill or release into the water," gas station owner Kevin Griffee said.

Parts of the town remain evacuated because of the flooding.

7NEWS' reporter Lance Hernandez asked evacuee Janaya Lieberkinecht, "What's it like having to live out of a car, out of a suitcase?"

"You know, it doesn't bug us too bad because we camp a lot, so we live out of our camper. We're out at his mom's house, we've got running water and everything. But it's kinda hard letting our dogs be able to run, not being able to go home to sleep in our own bed. But you survive."

Although drinking water in the town is safe, the health department ordered all restaurants in Sterling to close because of a no-flush order related to a problem at the wastewater treatment plant. Portable toilets are distributed at parks and sports fields throughout the town.

"We're telling people they can use plastic baggies and a handful of kitty litter and then throw it in the trash," said Bob Owens, with the Logan County office of emergency management .

Emergency officials are also warning about a widespread power outage because an Xcel substation is submerged in the floodwaters, posting on facebook: "It has been decided to leave the power on as long as it will stay. Here's hoping the sub-station rides out the flood."

Owens recommended people prepare for a potential outage. "If you use a generator make sure the exhaust vents well away from living space. If you have any functional needs that depend on electrical power NOW is the time to make preparations," the Logan County Office of Emergency Management facebook page warns.