Wet ‘n’ wild: As deluge hits, lightning strikes GJ preschool

GRETEL DAUGHERTY/The Daily Sentinel—Stephani Schwettman looks at damage in an upstairs storage area at her business, We-Kare-A-Lot Preschool, 1159 Grand Ave., after lightning struck the building and set it on fire early Wednesday. The fire caused about $50,000 of damage to the building and $10,000 to its contents, Schwettman said.

DEAN HUMPHREY/The Daily Sentinel—Water accumulates at Grand Avenue and 12th Street during a large thunderstorm early Wednesday that deposited more than an inch of rain in some areas of the city.

There are a couple of things residents in western Colorado aren’t used to experiencing: the sight of standing water and feeling like we live in a sauna.

Yet that’s what happened after severe thunderstorms pelted the Grand Valley with rain early Wednesday morning, a whopping 1.51 inches of rain falling near Grand Junction’s core, according to the National Weather Service in Grand Junction.

Temporarily flooded city streets pushed debris and rocks onto sidewalks as low-lying areas were submerged. Probably the most affected was We Kare-A-Lot, a childcare facility at 1159 Grand Ave. that caught on fire after a peak on the roof was struck by lightning.

“Mother Nature was not very kind to us last night,” owner Stephani Schwettman said by phone Wednesday after an exhausting day that started with a phone call from emergency dispatch officials at 2:40 a.m.

About 100 children are enrolled in the center and about 50 children attend the center on a given day, Schwettman said.

Although firefighters were able to quickly extinguish the blaze, it caused enough damage that the building cannot immediately be occupied. Schwettman told parents Wednesday that the facility would be closed, but by Monday, she is hoping to house children in a temporary, replacement facility. The Grand Avenue location will open up again, after insurance adjusters can assess the damage and a contractor can fix it up.

“Staff, parents and teachers are trying to call and reach out to anybody they know to give us a building. Right now we have a dozen buildings that will let us come,” she said. “We will survive and go on.”

A number of residents were roused from sleep by the clapping of thunder and driving rain. But the storm dumped varying amounts of rain around the valley. At the Grand Junction Regional Airport, the official weather station of western Colorado, just 0.21 inch fell, according to the National Weather Service. However, a record amount of rain, 1.51 inches, fell about one mile northeast of downtown at an unofficial weather station near 12th Street and Chipeta Avenue. In areas near 28 1/4 and Patterson roads, 0.90 inch of rain fell, and rainfall amounts continued to diminish somewhat as the storm wore on with 0.31 inch falling five miles northwest of Grand Junction.

“This moisture came from the south, from Mexico and Arizona, and worked its way to the Central Rockies,” said Joe Ramey, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Grand Junction.

Moisture is sticking around in the Grand Valley and there’s a chance all week for more rainfall in slow-moving storms, he said.

“There’s bound to be some surprise local heavy rain, is the screaming message of our forecast,” Ramey said.


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