It has now been 6 months since flood waters ripped through the mountains and foothills of northern Colorado, killing several people and causing millions of dollars in damage.
So where are things as far as recovery?
Well, for us, we are pretty much back to normal. The temporary utilities have done great even in the freezing temperatures. The temporary roads are the only thing that affects us much, in that we have to take alternate routes than normal in our area as well as to get to our home. And we have to drive slower because the road to our home is still a damaged road. The views all around us are still quite different as well, since winter halted any sort of re-building or digging out of things. As things warm up and the snow starts melting and spring arrives we are facing some troubles here at the farm, which I talk about at the end of this post.
Now, on to the report on the area as a whole. Most condemned houses are still standing, since winter has held off a lot of clean-up and rebuilding. The main work has been to maintain the temporary roads as much as possible and to clean up the debris from the river and creek beds. The debris includes bushes, trees, etc, but also pieces and parts of houses that were washed away and anything from inside of houses. They are just now starting to finish up the debris clean-up and are beginning to focus on the big problem at hand…spring run-off.
Spring run-off is the time in the mountains when it starts to warm up and all the snow that has piled up in the tops of the mountains and not melted all winter begins to melt and work its way down the mountains and into the streams and rivers. The farther down you go the more water is present. Spring also means the time of year when natural springs pop up from underground. In a normal year in our area spring run-off usually means sandbags along certain low-lying bridges and properties to keep the river where it is supposed to be for a couple of weeks. And occasionally it means a spring comes up under someone’s driveway or house that wasn’t there before and they have to deal with it. We are all used to it and used to dealing with it. However, this year is a completely COMPLETELY different story. First of all, they are reporting that snow pack is at 200% of normal. This means twice as much snow is waiting up in the mountains to melt than what we usually get. Without the flood damage that would mean we are headed for a year with some minor flooding and major sandbagging. But because of the flood damage the river beds are all messed up, the paths of the streams and rivers are all different than they used to be, and the large amounts of silt that were brought by the flood and deposited in many different locations have made the river bed very shallow and spread out – so there is no appropriate place for the spring run-off waters to go. And secondly, the underground water table was completely changed and shifted so that springs are appearing everywhere and causing more damage already and it isn’t even officially the time of year that they pop up yet. So it can be expected that there will be much more flooding in houses, and potentially collapsing of roads because of springs coming up under them.
So at this point everyone (“everyone” means the towns, counties, and state workers and people living along the rivers and creeks) is scrambling to get the river and creek paths dug out enough to give the run-off waters an appropriate path to follow, and building dams and walls with boulders and dirt to protect the homes and properties that are still standing but will be flooded by the run-off because of the river paths being out of whack. This is a huge undertaking and they are rushing against the clock and the weather. It is hard to dig when the ground is totally frozen and covered with snow and ice, but at the same time they can’t wait for it to warm too much or the run-off will be here.
It almost feels like we (“we” meaning our town and area, not us specifically) are preparing ourselves for another flood – which in a way we are. We are hoping and praying that everything is done and that we have a mild spring so that the run-off is spread over a longer amount of time and thus isn’t so much water at once. Hopefully we can save the houses and bridges that are left from yet another round of damage.
As far as us specifically preparing – the melting snow is already having an effect on our back yard and because the flood shifted the underground water tables everything is different and we have standing water in the back yard. During the flood the standing water in the back yard soaked down and flooded our basement. So we are trying to keep an eye on it and might set up a sump pump as the weather warms up to try to keep the water out of our basement. Also, a spring has come up under the back corner of the barn (because the underground water table was changed by the flood). It is currently just firm mud, but if it continues to soften and fill up with water we will have to tear up the barn floor and deal with a way to drain it.
So, as winter begins to give way to spring (which in our area doesn’t really start till May, but looks like it might come a bit early), the victims of the flood are faced with a whole new onslaught of issues. It seems that if we can all survive the spring run-off and subsequent springs and such showing up in yards and under roads and such, then we will be able to move on to the actual re-building of permanent utilities, roads, and structures.