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Hi, I'm Tamera, a professional wedding, portrait and boudoir photographer in Colorado Springs. But this blog isn't about my professional work; no, it's a daily love note to my beautiful city, where I've lived for most of my life. I love it here and I hope you enjoy seeing Colorado Springs through my eyes and lens!

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11 August 2013

Devastating flash flood in Manitou Springs

Photo by Michael Ciaglo, the Gazette.

If you're a regular reader of this blog, you know how much I love Manitou Springs, the little town adjacent to Colorado Springs' west side. Manitou experienced a devastating flash flood on Friday evening. I was stranded at my photography studio in the Old North End around 5:30pm by a violent thunderstorm, and it was more than half an hour before the storm let up enough for me to make a dash for my car. Unfortunately, just a little to the southwest of me, Manitou was having it far worse. Manitou basically sits at the bottom of Ute Pass -- the foothills of Pikes Peak. Because of the enormous scorched area in the foothills left by the Waldo Canyon fire last June, there is no vegetation to prevent a massive flood if Mother Nature were to dump a large storm on us. And dump she did. All that water and all that ash quickly turned into a violent flash flood, completely overrunning Fountain Creek with churning black sludge in a matter of minutes. Anyone and anything in its path was doomed. The photo above, taken yesterday morning, gives you an idea of the aftermath. I'll link to a couple more images below (all from the Gazette.com), and if you want to see more, click HERE. As far as I know, there is one confirmed death and three people have been reported missing. It's tragic.

Photo by Michael Ciaglo, the Gazette.

Photo by Michael Ciaglo, the Gazette.  This photo was clearly taken from right in front of the historic Cliff House, where I shoot many weddings. This is very upsetting.

And for a truly terrifying look at what it's like to be caught in a flood like this, watch this video: https://www.facebook.com/photo.php?v=198131633688835&set=o.147277778656245&type=2&theater  This was shot just up the street from my friend Lorelei's house. Lorelei reported today that her basement is literally full of mud, almost to the ceiling, and there is a giant tree lying uprooted in her front yard.

I have many friends in Manitou. Everyone is devastated, but they are rallying together to clean up and put things back to normal. Yesterday, hordes of volunteers came together and shoveled mud for hours. So much progress was made, it was very heartening for us all. I'd like to share my friend Noel's Facebook update from yesterday afternoon. He had spent all day helping to dig our beloved, historic Manitou Penny Arcade out from under tons of mud. Here is what he had to say:

I just got home from shoveling mud with about 400 other fellow Manitoids/Manitou lovers who made their way down to Adams and the Penny Arcade. I stayed three hours, but there were people who'd been there since well before dawn. I shoveled next to a big guy with a back brace in obvious pain who confessed he'd had 3 backsurgeries and was on morphine. He handed out water when he couldn't handle the pain any more. We moved arcade rides and games and shoveled the muck that had collected beneath them into a mountain range in the center of the walkways so the front loader could drive in and scoop it up. By about noon, there were so many people with shovels that people came with wheelbarrows because the front loader couldn't keep up. Alan, the owner of the Penny Arcade showed up, looked me in the eye and said: "I told you I didn't need your help!" He's my favorite curmudgeon. When Ursen was a little boy we'd stand around complaining about anything and everything while he slipped quarters into Ursen's hands. He'd always talk about how he was going to shut the arcade down. When I saw him last night and the arcade and boardwalk were covered in mud he looked particularly despondent as he swept sludge out the horse race room (always my favorite!). "Living the dream," he said. Then he leaned on the broom and said, "Maybe I'll just shut it down for the summer." I've heard these threats from Alan a dozen times, but I wouldn't have been surprised if he was serious this time, and maybe he is.

I shoveled with an ex-military covered in patriotic tattoos—an American flag with stripes that turned into bombs at the end and a "Valhalla" on his left chest; I shoveled with counsellors from Summit ministries, hippies, next-door neighbors, co-workers, city councilperson and Pikes Peak marathoner Matt Carpenter (who said, by the way, that short of putting in a dam at The Narrows in Williams Canyon, that this is probably the new normal). No one really seemed to need to be told what to do. There weren't any "leaders" that I could discern other than someone occasionally calling out for more shovels in one place or another. Some people brought food around, tuna on crackers, sandwiches. I ran into Chuck Murphy who owns the Spa Building. He was in a button up shirt and khakis splattered with mud. "Only in Manitou," he said, looking around at the dozens of volunteers sweeping mud off the patio of Adams into the creek. While I don't agree that Manitou has some special corner on community spirit, I was particularly taken with how many people had anarchically self-organized. People had just shown up and everyone worked together without a lot of talking or direction and no one was trying to be a hero.

I saw Farley at Adams. She seemed stalwart, bolstered by the myriad volunteers. Apparently, a neighbor who'd arrived early told me, people had left the restaurant in such a hurry when the flood sirens went off last night that there were still unfinished meals and drinks on the tables this morning.

As I was leaving, almost all the mud had been removed from the arcade. I ran into Mike, the manager, and told him to tell Alan I said goodbye. He said that Alan had been so moved by all the volunteers that he couldn't speak.

I am not surprised at how quickly our community came together in this crisis. We saw the same spirit last year during the Waldo Canyon fire, and again only a few weeks ago when the Black Forest fire destroyed over 500 homes on the east side of our city. We have had it rough here the last couple of years, but we are resilient.

My heart is aching for all the damage done to all the many little restaurants, bars, hotels and shops that I've known and loved in Manitou over the years, some of them owned by friends of mine. I couldn't get to sleep last night. Seeing the photos and videos on the news, and reading all the shocked and devastated Facebook updates from my many friends who live in Manitou Springs... it was so upsetting. It has proven to me more than ever how much my heart is tied to the Pikes Peak region and my city.


Kris said...

:( ...
this year has been terrible for the world. But, we just have to keep calm and carry on .

MJ said...

How devastating and frightening to witness and I can only imagine what a struggle lies ahead to clean up. Our thoughts and prayers are with everyone in the Manitou Springs area. Stay strong.

Randy said...

This is horrible. I feel for all those affected.

Mo said...

This is terrible. I am surprised we have not heard about it here. I hope things can return to normal very soon.