Fremont County officials said Tuesday’s flood is the worst the Hayden Pass burn scar has experienced, and the damage to private property proves that.
Two years ago, this caliber of flooding wasn’t a concern. A trio of creeks — Big Cottonwood Creek, Little Cottonwood Creek and Butter Creek — were only a few feet wide.
That has changed since the Hayden Pass Fire in July 2016. People living near the creek tell News 5 this is the third major flood to happen in the area since the fire, and the floods are widening the creeks.
Norman Lemons and his family have owned their Coaldale property since the 1970s. Their cabin and garage are still standing, but both structures are a total loss after the flash flood tore right through them.
"There’s only a few pictures left on the walls. Everything went through the front of the building. The contents are all gone," Lemons said. "There’s a few things left in there, but basically everything is gone.”
Inside, you can see how high the flood waters were on the walls.
Couches are flipped over, and a Jeep inside the garage is locked in mud.
"It’s property, and it’s horrible to see it happen, but we didn’t lose anybody," Lemons said. "So, that’s something to be said for. But, it’s devastating obviously.”
The Hayden Pass burn scar still hasn’t healed with new and living vegetation. So every time it rains, the water comes sprinting downhill, taking just about anything in its path.
“The water was moving fast. There was a lot of it, and it had a lot of debris in it. And as it builds and moves further down, it collects more debris," said Jill Filer, emergency manager for Fremont County. "And as it collects more debris, it takes out more things, more trees, more structures.”
This is Coaldale’s new normal. The town was protected from the Hayden Pass Fire, but it’s now vulnerable because of it.
"What has really been devastating is the aftermath of it," Lemons said. "The flood has been worse than anything to a lot of people up here.”
Lemons told News 5 he will wait to fully assess the damage at his property until the heavy rains pass through. Meanwhile, the county is doing all it can to educate its residents and visitors on what to do the next time a flash flood hits.