Shovels, power washers fuel massive clean-up in Manitou Springs

Mud slides knocked homes off foundations

MANITOU SPRINGS, Colo - Authorities in flood stricken Manitou Springs say they’re still trying to assess the damage from a massive mudslide that roared through a neighborhood along Canon Avenue Monday.

“We had at least three homes destroyed,” Manitou Springs Police Chief Joe Ribeiro told 7NEWS. “Inspectors have deemed them unsafe for entering, so we have three in that category.”

Ribeiro said at least 10 other homes and four businesses were also damaged in the flood.

M.J. Thomson’s was one of them.

“A lot of the big railroad ties (in that pile) are from a big deck I had on my property around the corner,” Thomson said. “The deck washed out and the debris just piled up right there.”


While Thomson was shoveling debris, his neighbor, John Marhoffer, was power washing the muddy grime off the exterior walls of a home he purchased one week ago.

“It’s a rental house,” he said. “I purchased flood insurance for the place, federal flood insurance. FEMA.  It takes 30 days to kick in. So, I have 25 days before I have flood insurance.”

Marhoffer told 7NEWS that he was working on the rental house Monday when storm clouds moved in.

“The rain lasted about 15 minutes, and then the sun came out just like it is now,” he said. “I came outside to check the culvert. There was a nice little runoff, like you would expect.”

Marhoffer said that, 20 minutes later, he heard a rumble and thought he better move his Dodge Durango to the other side of the bridge.

“I walked from the bridge to the car, got in, and started the ignition and in 20 seconds this happened that fast,” he said, while pointing to the mud, branches and debris piled up behind his SUV. “I have a newfound respect for flash flooding.”

Marhoffer said there is so much mud in the basement of his rental house that he can’t get in, because the door won’t open.  He said when you look through one of the windows, you can see furniture and appliances tipped over inside.


There is more damage farther up the street, where rushing mud caved in walls and knocked homes off foundations.

City officials cordoned off those damaged homes with yellow caution tape.

A damage assessment notice was posted by the front door of one of the homes.  The door itself appeared to have been knocked off its hinges by rushing mud. An adjacent window was blown out.  Inside the home, you can see a twisted heap of muddy furniture.

While clean up crews removed mud from private property, heavy equipment operators moved in to dredge mud and rocks from the upstream culvert that overflowed.

They want to be prepared for the next rainstorm.

“One of my worries today,” Chief Ribeiro said, "is that we’ll get half way through this clean up and we’ll have to deal with it again.”

The chief said he’s grateful no one was injured or killed in the flood, especially since the emergency siren didn’t sound.  Ribeiro said the siren works, but that when he manually tried to activate it, he didn’t hold the button down long enough.

“It was operator error,” he said, “and a learning experience.”

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