El Paso County working to repair courthouse

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COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. (KKTV) - The El Paso County Courthouse found itself one of the casualties of Monday's wind storm after parts of its roof blew off, forcing the building to evacuate. The county says it's the worst damage the courthouse has experienced.

After forced evacuations Monday due to the wind, most of the courthouse opened back up Tuesday at noon. For a while until repairs are complete, access to some courtrooms on the fifth floor are still limited because of the damage.

Rebecca Vanpelt was in line for the courthouse Tuesday after she was evacuated Monday.

“We came to the front doors and then couldn’t get out because stuff was flying off the top of the building -- huge chunks of stuff -- and there was officers out here with riot shields trying to shield people who were out here from stuff that was falling, and it was just absolutely insane,” said Vanpelt.

A spokesperson said most of the damage was to the courthouse's southwest tower. Earlier, deputies blocked pedestrian access to Tejon Street in front of the courthouse to prevent any possible injuries from flying debris.

“It tore up that corner and because it’s a membrane roof, it took the electrical and everything else with it, so that has to be repaired,” said El Paso County Public Works Director Jim Reid.

Reid explained that because it's a membrane roof, there is a thick rubber layer that's almost in a single piece. Once one part breaks, which was the case with the courthouse, the entire roof is impacted.

Through Tuesday morning, crews were on the roof to look at the damage and access emergency repairs. Following that, they focused on cleaning up debris.

Early Wednesday, the county plans to close driver and pedestrian access to westbound Vermijo Avenue from Tejon Street to Cascade Avenue for repairs.

“We’re going to bring a crane in to bring in all the equipment and materials we need to patch that corner," said Reid. "The key thing is whenever you do a roof, it’s weather dependent and it has to be good weather, and it looks like we’re not going to blessed with that over the weekend.”

Right now, costs for repairs are estimated at $24,000, but the county expects that number to go up significantly once they look into electrical damage.

The county says that money will come from the self-insurance fund, but once total cost estimates are in, they may look into state or federal emergency funds.

Although current repairs are just temporary, the county will wait until there is a long enough period of good weather before working on a permanent fix for the roof.

"Whatever it takes, we’re going to get it done,” said Reid.

Wind gusts at the Colorado Springs Airport measured more than 70 mph, and even higher in areas on the west side of El Paso County.