Heavy rains mean burden for town, blessing for farmers | MyWindsorNow.com

Heavy rains mean burden for town, blessing for farmers

Casey Kelly and Nikki Work
ckelly@mywindsornow.com and nwork@greeleytribune.com

Deep standing water rose around cars, some submerged to window-level, in the parking lot of Universal Forest Products in Windsor on Tuesday. One vehicle sat empty with the windshield wipers beating full speed against the downpour of rain.

Heavy rains — about 3.5 inches in 90 minutes — caused flash flooding Tuesday in Windsor. Firefighters from the Windsor Severance Fire Rescue Authority rescued several motorists who had became stuck in their vehicles after they drove into standing water.

"I've never seen anything like this," said Chad Eastin, general manager for Universal Forest Products, 15 Walnut St. He said the interior of his business was undamaged, but the cars and lumber stored in the parking lot weren't as lucky.

As of 8 a.m. Wednesday morning, a total of 3.54 inches of rain had fallen in Windsor during the previous 24 hours, according to Jim Kalina, meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Boulder.

"The Windsor area was probably the heaviest hit, and most of that fell in a 90-minute period," Kalina said. "Some of our radar estimates show up to 5 inches of rain in that area."

Fire department spokesman Todd Vess said authorities got at least nine calls in the space of about an hour from motorists who were stuck. Firefighters were able to get the motorists out of their vehicles, and there were no injuries.

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Windsor Public Works Operations Manager Coby Shurtleff said the area of town hardest hit by the flooding was on Garden Drive, between 7th Street and Colo. 257. He said the water was draining to the east and would continue impacting roads in the area into the evening. He said barricades and public works employees were stationed at flooded intersections in town to keep cars from trying to enter. He said some public works employees reported water more than 2-feet deep in places.

The town's public works department spent much of the day that followed cleaning debris from storm drains throughout town. Shurtleff said crews have also found road damage in the Hilltop Circle area that will need to be repaired once the road dries out.

Eastin, at the lumber yard, said with the area flooded to the east, there was nowhere for the water to drain. He said he thought the standing water could remain for some time.

"It's just lumber, though. That can be replaced," Eastin said. "What's really important is everyone is OK."

While the past days' rain has caused some issues in Windsor, farmers around Weld County welcomed the moisture as a gift.

The rains in Weld County will have a mostly positive effect, though it is causing some delays, said Nick Colglazier, the director of state affairs for the Colorado Farm Bureau.

"Some guys are having trouble getting their hay put up," Colglazier said. "One of my members has actually held off on cutting his hay because they knew this was coming, and it's causing the quality to go down."

Since hay can't be baled until it is dry, hay that wasn't harvested before these storms is losing nutritional value, and hay that was cut is awaiting dry weather for further action.

In addition, Colglazier said farmers could encounter problems from heavy, continual rain or flooding on fruit and vegetable crops, such as onions.

"Those are going to be a little more sensitive to the rainfall," he said.

For the most part, though, Colglazier said the moisture is a good thing for the farming community and a welcome change from last year, when at this time 100 percent of Colorado was suffering from some sort of drought conditions.

For commodity crops like corn, the added water will help finish their growing cycle.

"A lot of guys are looking at this as a gift more than anything," he said.

Though many areas in the state are currently harvesting their winter wheat crop, Darrell Hanavan, the executive director of Colorado Wheat, said the harvest was about 95 percent complete before the heavy rains started.

"Fortunately, most of the production was already harvested," Hanavan said. "The wheat's ripe and ready to cut, so as soon as the fields dry up and the moisture content of the wheat would dry down to about 12 percent, they'll finish the harvest."

The process of letting the fields dry could take anywhere from a couple days to a week, depending on how long the rain continues.

"We definitely need the moisture for planting next year's crop this fall," Hanavan said. "It's going to be more beneficial than detrimental to us."

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