SURVIVORS of the catastrophic floods that ravaged Boulder and surrounding areas this past September have not misplaced a single fact or sound. Months after the waters receded, they are haunted by lucid memories immune to time and retelling.
Rainfall was staggering. By Sept. 18, 17.17 inches had descended. In one fell swoop, Boulder established a record for annual rainfall — 30.13 inches — and the year was far from over.
Major flooding covered a north-south path extending for 200 miles along the foothills west of Boulder, Jamestown, Longmont, Estes Park, Sterling and many other towns.
The floods engulfed 4,500 sq. miles, equal to the size of Connecticut.
According to preliminary statistics, 5,958 people were evacuated (2,256 by air); 1,047 pets were evacuated by air; repair of bridges and roads will cost $475 million; 1,882 homes were destroyed, 16,101 were damaged.
As the skies cleared and revealed the bleak destruction below, the numbers rose higher and higher, like the floods that generated them.
Behind every number, there is a human being.
Nearly four months have passed since the “1,000-year event” flattened 17 counties into fields of debris and claimed eight lives.
Survivors now deal on a daily basis with contractors, local and federal agencies, insurance companies and shattered dreams. It’s not like everything returns to normal once the floods disappear — far from it.
Resolution, whether mental or physical, is a long way off. Healing fluctuates. Praise for anonymous armies of volunteers is inviolate.
FEMA, a constant presence since the beginning, recently announced it had finished its work in Colorado and was moving on to the next disaster.
The following people contacted by the IJN lived to tell their stories.
“It’s a wonder more people didn’t die,” they say. Despite the hard road ahead, they are grateful to walk it.
What follows is a then-and-now snapshot of chaos and its continuing aftermath.
DR. Nancy S. Loving, a horse veterinarian, and her husband Roger felt the first flush of panic on Monday, Sept. 9, as calamitous sheets of rain inundated what became Ground Zero.
“By Wednesday evening, we started to see the impact,” Loving says. “By 11:30 p.m., the water backed up to the house. We piled in the camper and drove to a hill behind our home.”