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From Flood to Rescue: We’re Thankful in Este...

From Flood to Rescue: We’re Thankful in Estes Park

Lee Aldrich MiddlesageIt’s November and our theme for the month is, of course, Thankfulness & Gratitude.  As we celebrate Thanksgiving this month, think about the things you’re thankful for.

When the rains starting coming down in Colorado in mid-September nobody predicted the catastrophic damage and flooding that would leave more than 18,000 homes damaged, 1,000+ people stranded (many who needed to be air-vac’d out), with a land mass the size 1237044_609308722454207_1300676565_nof Connecticut affected. It is a miracle that so few people were killed.

Phrases like “catastrophic destruction” “biblical proportion” and “1,000 year flooding” routinely described the raging flood waters that destroyed or washed timthumb.php 3away cars, homes, businesses, roads, bridges, utilities. Nobody predicted either, the grit and determination of those of us affected by the flood, the camaraderie within the communities, and the thousands of first responders pulled in from all over the country who have rebuilt roads, reconnected utilities and essentially, rescued us to help put our lives back together. It is to these folks we owe  a huge debt of gratitude and they need to know that we’re thankful in Estes Park.

551172_610466969005049_327077473_nCompared to many other people, my husband and I were extremely fortunate. Although the flood waters destroyed the roads we used to get off the mountain, he – and two other people he works with – took the remaining road that would get them to the front range where they now lived Monday through Friday. The road was a narrow rutted, two-track, 4WD necessary dirt road, with  sides that dropped off into the abyss. A work drive that usually took 40-45 minutes, now took them 3.5-4 hours and we were hearing it would take months to years for the major roads to be reconstructed. I missed him….but…my house STAYED clean and I really didn’t need to cook. A dinner of 3 fudgesicles worked just fine for me.

IMG_0675While there were cars and parts of houses floating down the rivers, our house was intact. We had water in our mechanical room coming up from the saturated ground and ancient artesian springs that were now full, but we were able to “McGyver” two sump pumps and several hoses to move it from the mechanical room, across the downstairs and out a bathroom window. Our house never leaked a drop.

One of the most unique experiences was the loss of utilities. Again, we were very fortunate. We lost cell signals and phones for a bit, our electricity for an hour or so, but we never lost our heat, gas or internet connection. The sewer system was another story.

IMG_0662 - Version 2Because the utilities ran under the roads, and many roads were almost completely washed away, the sewer lines were destroyed and needed rebuilding which turned the vast majority of Estes Park into a “No Flush Zone.” Like crocus in the spring, porto potties began popping up all over town and those of us who didn’t leave town, discovered what it was like to camp in your own house. We could walk out the front door, go across the street and use the porto potty (nope…never did), or purchase a brand spanking new camping potty and put it next to our now unusable toilet. We opted for that.

I needed to tell you a bit of the flood background so you will understand the magnitude of the work that needed to be done. The city managers held daily meetings that were webcast so we could all hear updates; local, state and national government agencies pooled resources – and played very nicely together I might add – to work on the projects at hand; the local utility companies recruited the help of other utility companies from many states around to work on restructuring facilities; engineers, CDOT and the National Guard moved mountains – literally – to start road reconstruction.

IMG_0656All in all, these were gargantuan projects that took many, many people to orchestrate and oversee. And let’s not forget – MANY of the people working on the first responders and reconstruction teams were dealing with their own loss and destruction caused by the flood. These people illustrate the selfless, determined attitude that could see the light at the end of the tunnel and KNOW that it wasn’t a train. Many people worked 14+ hours a day, 6-7 days a week. Many teams ran 24/7 rotating people in and out of the work zones.

A flood that decimated most of Larimer county on September 12, 2013 was losing her grip on us, due entirely to these people who worked tirelessly to keep us informed, help reconstruct our lives and rescue us from disaster. In a miraculous turn of events due to all these selfless and hard-driving 1240346_607727049279041_94163313_nfolks, Estes Park re-opened for visitors. On Friday, September 1st, a temporary sewer line was completed so we’re no longer camping in our home. And some of the best news, Highway 36 – one of the two profoundly destroyed main roads heading up and down the mountain – was reopened on Monday, September 4th with a preliminary foundation that allowed traffic to and from Estes Park.

It’s amazing how many things we really take for granted: roads, flush toilets, our safety. I want the people who brought us from rack and ruin, who reconnected us, who helped – and are still helping – return our lives to us, to know that we will be forever grateful for the selfless and tireless efforts you put forth to rescue us. On behalf of the entire town, you need to know that in Estes Park we are profoundly thankful and eternally grateful to all of you.







  1. Barbara Coleman

    14 November

    When you hear the news of the flood you can’t really comprehend the impact of it on the lives of the people who live there. It’s easy to think (from the other side of the country) if your house wasn’t the one floating down the river, you weren’t impacted. Then when the national news stops covering it, and it’s easy to think (or stop thinking) disaster is over. Being grateful for life returning makes you realize how great your life is….with sewers anyway

  2. Bouncin Barb

    14 November

    Everyday we sat in silence when watching what was happening in CO. Just shocking. And then there is the magnitude of the typhoon in the Philippines. We do need to be thankful everyday don’t we?

    • Lee Aldrich

      15 November

      Barb – you’re not kidding. We just got word today that highway 34 is going to reopen which is another huge step. Thank you for your comments.

  3. Adrian

    16 November

    That is SO amazing to me that I live just one state away from you – heck, my kids have even been to Estes Park for a youth rally, and the ONLY place I have heard about this or seen pictures like these is on your blog. That is such a failure of our news media. Everyone knows about stupid stuff like the latest politician or celebrity to go astray, but when it’s huge news like this, they stay mum. Why do we put up with this? I have no clue. #SITSsharefest
    Adrian recently posted…Smart Money: The Trick to Minimum PaymentsMy Profile

    • Lee Aldrich

      18 November

      Adrian – (so can you tell I’m catching up on my email??)
      I have heard that from so many people. My mom, who lives in Michigan, had NO idea what happened until I told her. The news media is funny… I’m in the advertising field and the phrase I know to be true (especially during sweeps) is: “If it bleeds it leads, if it’s sex, it’s next.” If nobodies left to bleed they move to another story. Crazy, huh? Thank you for taking the time to read. And I have to say…I LOVE your response!

  4. Corlie

    17 November

    We have friends in Boulder, Colorado and their photos of the floods were shocking, it looked like the people that are doing all the reconstruction work pretty much had to rebuild whole cities! What a massive job you guys still have in front of you, I hope things are straightening out…
    Corlie recently posted…Our story from Cape Town to Kunming on BraveLeapsMy Profile

    • Lee Aldrich

      18 November

      Corlie – thank goodness, yes they are. And it is due to the untold HOURS these folks have put in getting everybody up and running again. I hope your friends in Boulder are OK. Thanks for sharing your comments! Have a good week!

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