No doubt, many of you reading this are residents of Colorado since Thirsties is based out of Loveland, Colorado. And for those of you who aren’t in Colorado, you’ve most likely seen on the news the massive flooding that’s been taking place in Boulder (where I live), Lyons (where I have many friends) Loveland, Longmont, Denver and so any other small cities and towns.
Here in Boulder we don’t get a lot of rain–when faced with buying another umbrella or raincoats and boots for my three children, it often seems like a waste of money. The kids might get to use them once or twice and then by the time they need them again in 6 months, they’ve outgrown them already. Imagine our surprise last Monday when it started to rain and didn’t stop.
After the first two days of heavy rain, there was an initial flash flood warning that I took about as seriously as the TV weatherman telling us we might get rain. “Yeah, right. I’ll believe that when I see it.” Too many times a forecast of rain and even dark ominous clouds and flashes of lightening only bring enough rain to make a polka-dot pattern on the sidewalks. But after a few days when the rain was showing no signs of stopping and we could see our small neighborhood creeks rising, the threat of an actual flash flood seemed much more real.
Wednesday night, my oldest, a second grader at Horizons K-8 in Boulder, arrived back safely from a two night sleepover at the Keystone Science School with her class. I remember it was raining at pick-up time and I asked if she had gotten wet in Keystone. “At little,” she replied, admitting that splashing in the puddles had been her favorite activity during the field trip.
That night, the rain fell even harder, reminding me of my home state of Vermont where this kind of rain is a common occurrence. However, the soil there is able to soak up excess water much more so than the hard, compacted soil and clay here in Colorado–imagine dripping water onto a hard, dry sponge as opposed to a sponge that’s already damp. At eight p.m. I got my first text message alert that read “Severe Alert: Flash Flood Warning in this area til 10:45 p.m. Avoid flood areas. Check local media. –NWS (National Weather Service).” At 11:17 that night I got a second Flash Flood Alert and by midnight, our power was out. A few hours later, I got an email saying that all schools in the Boulder area were closed due to imminent flooding. “Uh oh,” I thought, “this is not good.”
The next morning without power, we had very little idea of what was going on in our city and state. My cell phone could still access the internet and make calls which meant I could get a little information about the outside world. In fact, I got most of my information from my parents in Florida who were watching the flood coverage on the news and then passing it on to me. Finally by mid-afternoon, our power was back on…but the worst of the storm was yet to come.
The steady, pounding rain continued for the rest of the afternoon and all that night. The creeks around our house became frothy, brown swirling monsters that spread angrily, far from the narrow creek beds in which they usually ran. We watched the news helplessly, wondering how our friends in surrounding areas were doing, most especially in the small town of Lyons, Colorado where we have a relative who has a beautiful organic farm with goats, chickens, a llama and a bunny. We had seen on the news that Lyons had been absolutely devastated but we couldn’t get in touch with anyone who would know how Betsy was or if her farm had been lost.
On Friday, the process of evacuating residents by helicopter began…every road in and out of Lyons was destroyed by water, washed away, houses were demolished and splintered into unrecognizable chunks of debris and were left churning in a muddy soup. Older students from my daughter’s school were stuck above Jamestown on another outdoor education field trip. The reports were that they were safe and dry but that every road leading to them had been washed away. Their worried parents reached out to each other on Facebook, comforting each other with the idea that the kids were safe, yet struggling with the fierce parental instinct that makes us want to keep each one of our chicks tucked firmly under a wing while we hunker down in the same warm nest and wait out the storm together. The kids from our school, along with students from a few other schools, were rescued by helicopter a few days later. Even today, the sound of choppers going back and forth overhead reminds me that the rescues are still happening. There are still people cut off from the rest of the world and waiting for help.
I’m happy to report that our house, being on just enough of a rise, was completely untouched and the folks at Thirsties in Loveland are also okay.
As this natural disaster of historic proportions has unfolded, stories of survival and narrow escapes are mixed with those of loss of life and property. Social media has made me aware of a young couple from Lyons named Meg and Micah who have a 22 month old daughter and 3 month old twin boys. They evacuated the town in the nick of time, with only the clothes they were wearing. They lost everything. The last time their house was seen it was under five feet of water. I simply cannot wrap my mind around the desperation of their situation and yet, their community and a new community of concerned strangers touched by their story, are already reaching out to help. There is also the woman whose due date was right on or around the day the flooding began. She was rescued on Friday by helicopter and her water broke later that night.
While the worst of our suffering was in the form of cabin fever from having four days off from school, my heart aches for those who have been rendered homeless or worse. I’m looking for ways to help, particularly those with children and pets. How about you? Were you affected by Colorado’s flooding? And what are you doing to help your neighbors?