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Neighbors: City of Englewood ignored poor storm drainage warning signs, leading to tragedy

Posted at 6:13 PM, Jul 26, 2018
and last updated 2018-07-26 21:28:10-04

ENGLEWOOD, Colo. -- People who live in an Englewood neighborhood hit by flooding this week say the woman who got trapped in those floods didn’t have to die. Neighbors are angry the city has not done more in the wake of the tragedy and the severe damage caused to many homes.

Many residents told Denver7 they could not purchase flood insurance because their homes were not on a flood plain, and considered a minimal risk area. According to the city’s website, there were plans to work on drainage infrastructure. It’s unclear if any work has begun or would be anytime soon.

Mike Minnick, who owns one of the duplexes severely damaged on South Acoma Street, said he believes the poor drainage and the city’s failure to address the issue is the root cause of Tuesday’s destruction.

“We’re not in a flood plain. There’s no creeks or ponds or anything by here to overflow - to make something like this happen,” said Minnick.

On Thursday, he and many neighbors continued the heavy clean-up that included throwing away furniture and carpeting and anything else that was touched by the flood water.

“The water was coming this way. It wasn’t even coming down the streets or going down the drains,” said Minnick, as he demonstrated the path of the water.

Minnick told Denver7 his home has flooded several times, not to this extent, but often due to the drains being blocked and not well managed. Since Tuesday, he has not seen any city crews visit the area to assess the drains, even given more weather is expected.

“There’s no words for it. What it is, is that the city just isn’t helping. Our insurance has denied us because they’re considering this a flood, even though our streets couldn't handle the water,” said Minnick.

The flood killed Rachael Haber, 32, after she became trapped in her friend’s flooded basement apartment.

“I feel really bad about that. She was just a buddy of a friend coming over to feed the cat,” Minnick said. 

A block over, Katie Scott is dealing with the same situation. Her basement level and newly remodeled bathroom were ruined. Her home has also been flooded before.

“I called the City of Englewood yesterday and said, ‘are you doing something about this, because I’m tired of living like this.’ Every time, we are watching the weather,” said Scott.

Losing property, money and most importantly, a life, has this community wondering how they will recover.

“I mean, this place flooded and people died. And where do you go from there? I don’t know,” said Minnick.

Denver7 reached out to the city's spokeswoman several times as well as the mayor to ask about the current drainage system, any preventative measures taken or plans to address the homes out of power.

Nearly forty-eight hours after Haber's death, City of Englewood spokeswoman Alison Carney sent the following statement:

"The City of Englewood is sorry to hear about the tragic death of Rachel Harber that occurred as a result of flash flooding on July 24, 2018.

Due to the severity of the storm, Englewood's Mayor Linda Olson signed a resolution declaring a local disaster on Thursday, July 26. This resolution allows the City to work with Arapahoe County and the Colorado Office of Emergency Management to perform the necessary assessment to determine eligibility for disaster relief funding.

The solution states, "The City of Englewood experienced widespread and severe damage to major roads, residential and commercial property, public and private property, disruption of utility service and endangerment of health and safety of the residents of Englewood."

Given the amount of rainfall that fell in a shot period of time, the storm is classified as a 100-year-event. When the City was built out, the master drainage system was not designed for this type of 100-year-storm."