Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Call of duty: Protect the Spa Building

Posted By on Wed, Aug 14, 2013 at 7:25 AM

In today's Indy, you'll find several stories relating to the aftermath of last Friday's flash flood that tore through Manitou Springs

Videos, photos and first-hand accounts have already widely circulated through social media hubs and local media sites, but more stories are yet to be shared widely. 

One such story — which I couldn't tell in-full in my column this week — pertains to the bold actions undertaken by staff members at Adam's Mountain Café, the hardest-hit business due to its unfortunate location 11 feet below the flood plain, at the confluence of four watershed drainages. 

This is the gist of the story, as told to me Tuesday by line cook Charlie Morath:
click to enlarge MATTHEW SCHNIPER
  • Matthew Schniper

Morath describes Friday as a typical rainy day, considering recent weather patterns. The staff had been preparing for several months for a flash flood. They had emergency kits on hand, extra rain boots, sandbags, keys to various locations in the Spa Building to which to flee if needed. 

In addition to manning his line station, preparing food, Morath's side job, like all the other staff members, was to "keep an eye on the radar, over the burn scar in particular." 

Nevermind the hectic nature of restaurant service alone; the Adam's workers have for many months accepted the extra burden of looking over their shoulders for the inevitable water wave.

On Friday, the crew was also watching the creek directly in front of their patio, monitoring it for color — black ash would be an obvious sign that the water was coming directly from the burn area. 
click to enlarge Pushing the mud of out Adam's on Saturday morning. - MATTHEW SCHNIPER
  • Matthew Schniper
  • Pushing the mud of out Adam's on Saturday morning.

"It started to rain pretty heavy," says Morath. "We thought it was on top of us and would blow over, then suddenly the river just rose to a point where it was breaking over the wall." Morath says he's sure the town siren went off, but he doesn't remember hearing it over the rain.

Server Marisa Madge and the front-house crew evacuated diners to safety across the bridge and onto Manitou Avenue, before returning to try and shore up the café. 

The staff rushed to place sandbags on the patio, all of which were later swept downstream in the deluge. 

"By the time we got that side filled up, it was coming down from Cañon Avenue, so we rushed to that side to put as many sandbags up as we could ... it got to the point where we had to make a call that we weren't going to be able to save anything else or sandbag more — cars were coming down the street."

And just as suddenly as the creek had risen, Morath, dishwasher Carlos Sanchez and Ken Walker from neighboring D'vine Wine suddenly found themselves "trapped" outside. They had already sent their colleagues back inside as the waters rose, cutting it very close in terms of saving themselves: "The only way out was to get back in," he says. 

He describes a "waterfall" at head level, streaming down onto D'Vine Wine's outdoor patio area toward the creek and water nearing his waist level. "There was so much mud, it took all of our strength to pry the door open." 

Had the trio not, it's very likely they would have been swept down into the creek.

Once inside, water had already begun flooding the café's dining room and kitchen, so Morath and fellow cook Eric Kolstad quickly shut off gas to the ovens, grabbed keys and "whatever was available on the way out," and made their way to an upstairs balcony, where they presumed they might be for hours. Luckily, someone had the clear head to grab a couple bottles of wine to pass the time. 

Finally, the storm passed. And between Saturday and Monday, many of the café staff joined the amazing turnout of volunteers to clean up the area, offering their own time, unpaid, to try and get Adam's back in functional shape. 
click to enlarge A power-wash that may become routine if heavy storms persist. - MATTHEW SCHNIPER
  • Matthew Schniper
  • A power-wash that may become routine if heavy storms persist.

On Monday, Morath and Kolstad were aided by coworkers Natalie Booth and Jordan Running as they, with the help of cleanup crews working in the area, filled around 150 fresh sandbags — a task that café owner Farley McDonough says she didn't delegate, but felt such gratitude for, considering the events of late Monday afternoon. 

More heavy rain fell and, unsurprisingly, more water came rushing into Manitou Springs. The sandbags held what appeared to be around a foot of water at bay on the patio outside, holding all but a couple of small puddles back from the restaurant's interior. 

Without those bags, more water surely would have gotten in and this time been exposed to the open wall panels where drywall had yet to be replaced from Friday's event. That mess would have been even more costly and problematic in terms of setting the café back from its eventual reopening.. 

Morath shrugs off any hint of praise, saying that the crew (still working unpaid) had simply sandbagged because they knew it needed to be done and they'd otherwise run into a standstill with other restoration work inside the café. (Until hot water is back on, they can't wash dishes and finalize sanitation.) 

As much as the populations of Manitou Springs and Colorado Springs, as well as tourists from international destinations, care about Adam's Mountain Café and its well-being, it's clear that the café's own staff cares too. It's safe to say this is what makes Adam's special, beyond all that food that we can't wait to eat again soon. 

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