Floods Continue to Devastate Colorado

The flooding in Boulder, Colorado (US Army/EPA)

The flooding in Boulder, Colorado (US Army/EPA)

Less than a week ago, an unusual amount of rain started to fall in-and-around Boulder, Colorado. And over the span of the next four days, an area accustomed to 1.63 inches of average rainfall experienced a whopping 14.62 inches—almost nine times more than usual. Light winds allowed the storms to linger and, needless to say, the entire area flooded.

Unfortunately, rain continues to fall and the flooding has spread to at least 15 counties. The good news is that as of Wednesday night, only four fatalities had been confirmed—one in El Paso County and three in Boulder County. This number could rise, though, because as many as 1,000 people are still unaccounted for.

And the physical damage to the area, as you might imagine, is extensive. The latest estimates are in the hundreds of millions, but even that number is likely to rise as the waters recede.

Living through a flood is a horrible experience and one I wouldn’t wish on my worst enemy. I know because my area was hit by Hurricane Floyd in 1999. And the subsequent flooding crippled eastern North Carolina for months—even years—to come.

The hurricane itself was nothing to write home about. Despite living in town with some friends, I decided to stay with my parents in case I got stranded—they were much more prepared for such things and could afford more groceries. My fridge looked like the culinary representation of some vast desert of nothingness: a ketchup bottle here, some spoiled leftovers there and a few random, mismatched items scattered about.

Longmont, Colorado saw extensive damage (Cliff Grassmick/AP)

Longmont, Colorado saw extensive damage (Cliff Grassmick/AP)

I could also keep my eye on the parental units to ensure they survived the storm, which was my true purpose for staying there, of course.

The night Floyd finally arrived, I found myself crashing on the sofa in our upstairs playroom. Sheets of rain slapped against the window all night and winds swirled and hummed, but overall it wasn’t much of a storm. Sure, the rain kept coming and coming, but I never saw trees falling and as far as I can remember, we never lost power, either.

The word anticlimactic would have been an understatement given all the “wrath of God” weather forecasts we suffered through as Hurricane Floyd approached. The next morning—and since everything outside looked wet, but otherwise normal—I bid farewell to my parents, pillaged some groceries and chicken nuggets and set off for home.

I got about a quarter of a mile down the road before I realized the real consequence of the storm: flooding. The entire highway had been cut off by waters that continued to rise. I had no choice but to turn back and look for another route. Fortunately, I grew up here and knew lots of different ways to get where I was going.

And nearly every single one of them was underwater.

Hours passed as I drove down one road, turned around, tried another, turned around and repeated the process over and over again. By the time I finally made it home—and after going miles out of my way to cut back around to my neighborhood—I found myself short on food (aside from what I had with me), without power or water and, worst of all, alone.

My roommates had basically decided to follow my lead and to head home to be with their parents, too.

The damage in Rocky Mount from Floyd (ABC News)

The damage in Rocky Mount from Floyd (ABC News)

Eventually, power was restored and I was able to stock my fridge again, but this was small consolation given all the other “ripple effects” of the storm. The restaurant where I worked was located in an old power plant next to a river, so its entire first level got pretty much wiped out. The walk-in cooler in the kitchen split off from the building and started shifting towards the river. And all the downstairs windows were busted out, allowing all sorts of junk and debris to float through the dining room.

Rumor had it some dead bodies even floated through there—victims upriver who made their first post-mortem visit to the restaurant—so that added a creepy effect once the place reopened later… a lot later.

Like many of my friends and countless others in the flood-damaged area, I spent the next six months collecting unemployment and struggling to make ends meet. What’s worse, a storage unit I had filled with furniture, electronics and all sorts of memories—including some autographs from famous celebrities and athletes—was completely washed out. I lost everything.

It’s been said that time heals all wounds. And in many ways, it’s true. The memory of Hurricane Floyd, the flooding and everything I suffered through are just that… a memory. But the scars of that difficult time in my life remain, as I’m sure they will for the people of northern Colorado.

An aerial shot of eastern North Carolina after Hurricane Floyd (US Army)

An aerial shot of eastern North Carolina after Hurricane Floyd (US Army)

Of course, the flooding, damage and death are still happening in Colorado, so it will be some time before life there returns to normal. I am obviously not a very religious person—those of you who are might consider sending some prayers to these folks—but I can sympathize and will certainly be sending some positive vibes to my brethren in the west.

Hopefully the rain will stop falling soon so the difficult task of “drying out” can begin. And that in itself is pretty damned challenging…

Posted on September 15, 2013, in Perspectives and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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