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Flash flood damages autism center in Colorado Springs


Flooding damages autism center in Colorado Springs

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COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. -- A flash flood hit an autism center in Colorado Springs on Monday afternoon, leaving a trail of damage and mud outside and inside the building.

On Tuesday, staff members spent the morning trudging through water and mud inside classrooms, salvaging what they could from the building. The sights and sounds were just the beginning of the assault on their senses.

“It’s starting to stink and there’s already signs of mold," supervisor Perle Treguier said. “Everything four feet and under is going to have to be taken out.”

Though the mud is sticking around, it wasted no time flowing into the Alpine Autism Center during classes Monday.

“By the time we got to the doors there was so much water we couldn’t get out so we holed up in (a classroom)," therapist Alyssa Gordon said.

A day later the classroom carpet was soggy but better off than most of the building because staff members used sandbags to protect the students from the water that was flowing down the hall.

“It was just a lot of survival instincts kicking in and just making sure that the kid that you have is safe," Gordon said.

The Waldo Canyon Fire in 2012 spared the autism center, but the burn scars it left behind fed Monday’s flood.

Staff members have worried about the threat of floods from the burn scars since 2012, which is why they built a massive sandbag wall around the back of the building. Unfortunately, the wall couldn't withstand the kind of downpour they experienced Monday.

“This is by far worse than last year ever was,” Treguir said.

Though everyone made it out safely, not everything was so fortunate.

“Yeah, I lost my own car," said Kimberly Trujillo, director of operations for the center. "I didn’t even get to make a payment on it yet. It’s gone.”

Trujillo was captured on video, which has been seen nationwide, as the flash flood swept her car down the road just a block from the center.

“The brakes are on, you can see it clearly in the video but I just couldn’t stop,” Trujillo said.

Several other staff members also lost their vehicles because of 4 feet of flood water in the parking lot.

But the losses didn't stop the staff from coming in to help clean up and continuing their work in the afternoon.

“I am actually heading to work with one of my kiddos for the afternoon," Gordon said. "So I’m going to go down to her house. I gotta go find some water to hose off in.” ​

The Alpine Autism Center said insurance losses are still being tallied, and leaders of the nonprofit say they're concerned about their ability to recover.

They are looking for volunteers to help clean the outside of the building and remove debris on Friday and Saturday.

They are also holding their biggest fundraiser of the year on Friday. The charity golf outing will go on as planned, but they lost most of their auction items in the flood. For more information on the events and how to help, click here.

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