I was lucky. The placid little bike path down the street had turned into a flume, climbing over 15 feet high so that the stream found its oldest and easiest course through the neighborhood. Water came gushing out of sewer drains; it burst up through manhole covers creating giant fountains. The street in front of my house turned into a river, ripping license plates off parked cars and bringing logs and debris down the pavement. I really was not sure what I would do if it reached the house.
It did reach many of my neighbors spilling into basements and crawl spaces, drowning out memories, soaking sheet rock, extinguishing furnaces and boilers. Our new account manager, Elizabeth O’Connell, won’t be able to move back into her basement apartment for eight weeks. We got hit bad, but we were all lucky here in Boulder’s Martin Acres compared to friends in other spots, especially in Lyons, the charmed little town where my wife and I first lived when we got married, where a quiet creek flowed past so many Folks Fests and Rockygrasses. Lyons has been wiped off the map for now. The house we first lived in obliterated. Friends like Betsy Winter, executive director of the American Mountain Guides Association, and Clay Dusel, a green building contractor, spent tense days waiting to be evacuated and now will have to wait, homeless for months before they can return and sort through the mess. Most of Jamestown collapsed. Countless roads have been destroyed. The estimate of $2 billion in damage seems low.
I am confident that we will clean up the mess, however, mostly because of the courage I saw emerge in friends and neighbors during the flood and because of the outpouring of relief efforts after. In Martin Acres, I watched Christian Mason, director of sales and marketing at Deuter, fill and stack sandbags to keep the waters from flooding houses down the street—even though he is recovering from a broken femur. Up the hill, near Chautauqua, Tom Winter, a longtime outdoor writer and contributor to this magazine, broke out his chainsaw and was headed out in the downpour to do what he could for neighbors who were in danger. The staff of Dynafit was over at marketing manager Eric Henderson’s house, helping him clear his daughter’s bedroom and office that were waist deep in brown water. As the sun came out, people across Boulder County who were fortunate were ripping down wet sheetrock, clearing basements, shoveling sludge or doing whatever they could to help friends and strangers who were not so fortunate. Even companies like Vail Resorts, Smartwool, Columbia Sportswear and countless others rushed in to pony up and help.
But we still need to help. It will be a long, long time until folks in Lyons and Jamestown and other hard-hit spots feel anything close to normal. Let’s keep showing who we really are and help get them back to their lives and able to enjoy simple, beautiful things like hiking and riding bikes. They matter.
If you do want to help Colorado flood victims, one of the best resources is Donate Boulder, a community-created organization that gets volunteers in the field and connects those who need help with eager “mudslingers.” This is our community.