Tuesday, September 17, 2013

After Thursday...

Our 'Mighty St. Vrain' has always been a loose term for our river, as it meanders through town peacefully, and our Left Hand Creek has always been a little trickle for the most part, getting to proper creek status only after a lot of snow or rain in the mountains. Then, we got 2/3rds of a year's rain in one night. Hello Mighty St. Vrain. Hello, Proper Left Hand Creek-River.

We live in drought land. So when a phone call came at 4 a.m. saying all schools in our district were closed, because of.... rain... I though they were being overly cautious. Really? Some rain?

You can understand the initial disbelief between friends to see that really, schools canceled, in September, for rain?  Compounded by the knock on the door at 6:45 a.m. Leave? For rain? We live by a small river and a creek. Really? I was probably one of many faces who replied with a look of 'are you in the right neighborhood? and sane?' that morning. 

The boys, they jumped into evacuation mode. My Bear, my sweet sweet Bear, grabbed the most important thing in his nine-year old life - his fish blankie.... everything else can go down the river. But not that blankie. Still, I only took it half-seriously. Little creek. Little river. 

Compound the visit at 6:45 a.m. by a mid-morning walk  over to the creek with a friend to see that yes, indeedy, our creek has become quite the river. *Yes, we went a whole block away, to a friend's house, who wasn't evacuated yet... baby steps... baby steps...* We could see that the creek has flooded into the road, and that the road opposite, the OTHER side of the creek, was now a river itself, flowing fast and high. At this point Thursday morning, before noon, we knew it was both real and unprecedented. We spent the rest of the day low-key and cool as cucumbers for the kids - stifling any uncertainty and anxiety we might have had to ensure the children knew hey, yeah, this is different, this is serious, but we're all fine. It's exhausting, when you really want to go "WHOA this is SERIOUS."

We didn't know the full extent of its impact on our city. We knew, by this time, our favorite mountain town, Lyons, had already begun flooding, people evacuating out of their homes in the middle of the night and trying to stay up on high ground or sheltering in the school. Roads already washing out or washed out. Thursday night, Boulder residents took the brunt of it, hearing the sirens go off non-stop while the Boulder creek took over main roads.

We followed it all through social media, we followed our own city's flooding through the same means, the feeds from the city, the county and from the local newspaper keeping us up to date, people hashtag-ing the flood by location: #Longmontflood, #Lyonsflood, #StVrainflood, #Boulderflood, everywhere around us. You were either in a flood or in a drought here. It's a testament to the modern age that while we were experiencing one of the biggest weather events in our area in more than 500 years, my husband went to work, and it was all business as usual.  Right, 500-year flood event - yes, that's how common this is - and towns and cities all around us buzzed about normally. Now, while the city had a plan for this 500-year flood event (which I think involved them evacuating everyone on the 500 year flood plain), no resident spent their days thinking that the tiny Left Hand Creek and the St. Vrain River would be quite the force it became. 

I feel like the entire state should have stopped Thursday, with us. There should have been a day of state-wide bewilderment and awe. "Work has been canceled, because in the Front Range, a 500-year flood event is happening, and our Front Range communities are in a diasaster area. Be in awe of Nature, and spend the day in contemplation of nature's raw power and its impact on man's creations..."

....but of course that isn't how life works.  

These pictures in the album are of just the Lefthand Creek. The St. Vrain did a mighty amount of rearranging of our earth on its own, but these photos are right in my neighborhood:

The damage to our infrastructure is devastating. The estimates have more than 17,000 homes damaged, 1500 lost, but the real telling damage is to our roads and highways. Bridges here in town are gone, completely wiped out, leaving us a city of detours. We've lost some highways, and around 30 bridges. There is no access to some of the mountain towns, no visits for quite some time to our favorite Lyons, or Estes, gateway for us to Rocky Mountain National Park, and beautiful day-escape. In many areas, it's like nothing happened. But in some areas, where it's like nothing happened, go down one more street, and suddenly, you see it - what flood waters leave behind when they recede.

I had always imagined flooding to be quick, but as long as it rained, the flooding came. Wednesday night, Thursday night, Friday night, Saturday saw a reprieve but then more of the rains on Sunday prompted new fears, and more flooding. I'm pretty sure we need the rest of September to be dry. 

Next up, winter.

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