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Rain triggers Colorado mudslides

DURANGO, Colorado (CNN) -- An inch of rain triggered mudslides on wildfire-scoured mountainsides in southwestern Colorado, pushing waves of debris into houses and trapping motorists on local roads, authorities said.

The mudslides trapped 700 people at a dinner theater north of Durango Saturday night. Authorities drove a convoy of bulldozers to the Bar D Chuckwagon Supper and cleared the roads so the patrons could depart, La Plata County Sheriff's Lt. Dan Bender said.

"They were not in danger, but trapped for about five hours," he said.

One injury was reported: a man with a history of heart problems was treated for "cardiac distress" after mud pushed his vehicle off the road at Vallecito, about 25 miles northeast of Durango. He was in stable condition at an area hospital Sunday, Bender said.

The area was the site of the 112-square-mile Missionary Ridge wildfire, which was brought under control in July. The blaze obliterated the trees and brush that would normally soak up water -- and when the inch of rain fell Saturday night, walls of mud and debris poured down area canyons.

"I just came from a very nice, upscale, two-story home where I was walking in mud up to my knees in their living room," Bender said.

The landslides stretch across a 5 mile area north of Durango and have piled up to 10 feet of mud on area roads, he said. The mudslides carried a 15-foot tall boulder that weighed several tons down a hillside.

At least three homes have suffered heavy structural damage, Bender said.

Carmen Dille-Hachmann, the Red Cross program director for southwestern Colorado, said five families have sought shelter from the relief agency. Many others evacuated the area before the rain fell.

"People have made a lot of arrangements ahead of time and gotten out ahead of time," she said.

Authorities were bracing for more rain Sunday night. It is not unwelcome. The area has been wracked by chronic drought for nearly four years.

"It has reduced our fire danger greatly and is helping with the drought," he said. "The drought conditions still exist, but you have to start somewhere."




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