Thursday, September 19, 2013
Floods and Love
What a crazy, emotional, and wet week we have had in our little patch of the west! As I write I am hearing helicopters overhead. I do not have much experience with natural disasters, unlike Ray from earth quake prone California, I grew up on the east coast with little more than a snow storm here or there. When I moved to Colorado I assumed I would experience the same, and for the last 20 years that has been the case. It snows, it melts, life goes on, nothing major. Then the fires started last summer and we got used to life with smoke in our eyes and our hearts hurting for those around us in the mountains and further south where the fires raged. But nothing could have prepared us for the flooding that our semi arid community just experienced. It started a week ago today. Ray and I were awoken by a phone call at 4:55 AM. Calls that come in at that hour produce an immediate adrenaline response from me and I was then up and up for good. The call was a cancellation call for the homeschool enrichment program, rain and floods, a dam had broken. I laid there in the dark thinking, then on Facebook checking. We knew many families in the canyon where the dam had broken. What would happen to them? I sent out the most pathetic email I have sent to date. "Amy, I heard there may be some flooding near you. Let me know if I can help." That was it. I would not hear from Amy for 5 days, since she and her family had no power, water, or communications. If she could have emailed it would have said...send helicopter. And indeed that is what happened. She and her young family of 6 were airlifted out in the back of a Chinook, the last 6 seats, with the doors open. Wow!
Meanwhile back on the arid plains it was raining and raining. I still did not have a clue to how serious it all was. My friend Kriss and I were trying to figure out how to make a play date still happen for our girls since their school day was canceled Our voice of wisdom husbands both said...bad idea, stay off the roads. However, even while saying this Ray headed to work. A few hours later I got a call from Mom and Jim. A fireman had stopped by and had given them an hour to evacuate. That is when it became real. Something more than rain and one broken dam was happening. Mom and Jim were two towns away from the broken dam. I called Ray and asked him to please come home. He was not too worried and said maybe at 4 he would. I called back an hour later and said NOW. He had reached the same conclusion and was heading out. But there was a problem, streets were flooding and closing all around him. How would he get north? I got online and through news reports and Facebook updates from friends we planned a route. He had to head miles south and then way east to the highway, to then work his way north and back west to our home. He made it on and off the highway just before it was closed. It was quite an experience. His choice to skirt so far south was the trick. Another friend's husband was stuck for 2 hours trying to go only 2 miles. The towns were a mess with flooding roads everywhere.
Once Ray was home and Mom and Jim had arrived at our house, I relaxed. It began to almost feel like fun. The kids were so excited to have their grandparents there and spending the night. My sister was texting me and giving me an education on how to use Twitter as she gathered updates on the flooding. We all had a nice dinner. As the evening wore on it became apparent just how serious the situation was becoming. A storm in the mountains was sending a torrent of water towards the plains on multiple rivers, threatening multiple towns. We all went to bed, or tried to. Caroline was so disappointed about not seeing her friend, who was supposed to spend the night, that I offered to sleep in her room. I laid awake for a long time looking online, trying to find out more about the flooding and about areas where my friends lived. Mom, Ray and Max slept. Jim did not. He too was up and online and thinking. He left before any of us were awake to check on his house the next morning.
The morning brought a lot of wet and destructive news. Bridges to the two near by canyons were washed out, causing the towns to the west to be completely stranded. Bridges in town were damaged, or in the case of our small town, just plain gone, swept away. Roads were closed from west to east, carving the towns into thin ribbons of non flooded areas. Our house and Mom and Jim's house was in the same thin ribbon. My sister was on the other side. The news from Jim was shocking, but good. Their house was still dry! But only by feet, what a close call! The golf course behind their house was no longer a peaceful rolling green, but a raging smelly muck filled river. When I saw it a day later, the word river didn't even seem accurate, it was just enormous and I was seeing it after the waters had gone down quite a bit.
The following day there was a break in the rain and that is when the aerial footage started to appear on TV and online. The destruction was unbelievable. All the while I was slowly hearing from my friends in the canyons. They were out and safe, or soon would be. I didn't hear from Amy though for almost a week and that had me on edge and barely sleeping. Just knowing that they were trapped or worse and waiting for help was killing me. I could not help but think about my own family and how it must feel to have little kids and be in that situation. How scary it must have been for them. I didn't mention any of my fears to Caroline, Amy's daughter is Caroline's close friend. As far as Caroline knew all her friends were safe. We had more days of rain and then finally it cleared. Our somewhat sleepy part of the world was now national news.
In the last few days things have calmed down quite a bit. At least in our area, further east of us they are now sadly getting the waters that swept through our area. The sun is out, the helicopters are going back and forth, people are cleaning up. I was out yesterday and a sudden heavy thunder storm hit. I felt my heart racing and then I felt a bit silly to feel that way. I overheard another woman in Home Depot saying what I was feeling. "My house was not flooded, yet the sound of this storm is terrifying." Yes, exactly yes! As I have gone about town there are rescue trucks everywhere and I saw men from the Urban Search and Rescue getting supplies at Target while I shopped for random things, it felt odd.
Today the kids homeschool enrichment is again canceled. The building where they meet is being used as a shelter and command center for mountain rescue efforts. We knew ahead of time about the cancellation, so there was no early morning call. Instead I woke up normally today, but to a not so normal email inbox. It was filled with so many message! They were all offers of help from our homeschool community for my friend Amy and her family. I couldn't help but tear up a bit. The flip side of tragedy is love. Love is pouring in for them and I just feel so proud to live here, surrounded by such amazing people. It will be months until our local bridges are repaired, but a circuitous route to town is not a big deal, we are just thankful to have roads! The mountain towns face so much more.
We have learned a lot about weather in the last week. We have learned a lot about our community. Floods and Love.