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Mesa snowmelt overwhelms Dolores in valley below

Rapid snowmelt has created flooding in part of Dolores. (Jim Mimiaga/The Journal)
Community rallies to fill sandbags, redirect floodwaters; no injuries reported

Rapid snowmelt coming off Granath Mesa overwhelmed drainage infrastructure and flooded parts of Dolores Saturday and Sunday.

The heavy runoff flowed down a steep canyon and into culverts under Road U. 5 on the north side of town.

From there it breached drainage ditches near the Teddy Bear Preschool and flowed down Hillside Avenue and 15th Street.

Social media posts called for help, including from the Montezuma County Sheriff’s Office. Flooding closed portions of 15th Street and Hillside Drive.

More than 50 volunteers came out over the weekend to manage the water by filling sandbags and stacking them to protect buildings and redirect floodwaters back into drainage ditches.

“The community responded and came together, and it was Easter Sunday,” said Dolores Mayor Leigh Reeves.

The water flooded streets, some yards and school playgrounds.

Quick sandbag-stacking prevented serious flooding at the preschool and kept water away from public housing apartments and Dolores school buildings.

Flooding from snowmelt overwhelmed drainage capacity in Dolores as temperatures rise. (Jim Mimiaga/The Journal)
A dike of sandbags was installed to direct floodwaters to a drainage ditch in Dolores Sunday. (Jim Mimiaga/The Journal)
Rapid snowmelt overfilled drainages ditches in Dolores and caused flooding. (Jim Mimiaga/The Journal)
Dolores Mayor Leigh Reeves and Montezuma County Emergency Manager Jim Spratlen talk with a resident about flood mitigation. (Jim Mimiaga/The Journal)
Volunteers and neighbors joined forces to help control flooding in Dolores this weekend. (Jim Mimiaga/The Journal)

Dolores Schools Maintenance Director Alofonso Goad was at the scene until 2 a.m. Sunday mitigating and monitoring the water levels.

“It would rise, then fall and repeat,” he said about the water flow.

Town and school maintenance officials, along with Dolores Volunteer Fire Department, the county sheriff and emergency manager Jim Spratlen, developed a plan to control the floodwaters.

Lines of stacked sandbags were placed along the edges of Hillside Avenue and 15th Street to direct water toward a newly dug pit. From there, a large pump and pipeline delivered the water back to the drainage ditch, which continued under Colorado Highway 145 and into the Dolores River at Riverside Park.

Volunteers bagged about 3,000 sandbags, and about 2,000 were used over the weekend to control the situation, Spratlen said. Sheriff Steve Nowlin brought in a sandbag-filling station, and the county donated sand. Free sandbags for Dolores residents are available at Joe Rowell Park.

Andy and Megan Waterman arrived from Cortez to fill and place sandbags, including around a rental property they own next to a flooded street.

“We will be watching to see what happens. It’s nice to see everyone coming out to help,” Megan Waterman said.

The flooding is expected to continue this week as low-elevation snow melts off the mesa above but in a more controlled way, Spratlen said.

Above-average snowpack and a cool early spring delayed the runoff, which arrived in a fury after temperatures climbed to the high 60s.

Crawl spaces, basements and cellars in Dolores have already seen flooding from a rising water table in the river valley.