Lyons, Colorado, September 13, 2013. (AP Photo/Brennan Linsley)
I suppose by now you've watched the footage on the news and seen the grim photos online. Large swaths of northern and eastern Colorado have been completely, utterly devastated by flooding of biblical proportions. We've literally had seven straight days of heavy rain, and it only let up this morning. President Obama has declared Colorado a disaster area. I'm in it. I'm in Colorado Springs, which received something like 13" of rain in less than 48 hours. (For some perspective: our average ANNUAL rainfall in the Springs is around 15".) It's been insane. At times it felt like the water would never stop coming. As I type this, I don't hear the noise of raindrops hitting the roof of my house. It's strangely silent. Today, Tuesday, they are saying that it will finally be sunny and dry. My flood-weary friends in Manitou Springs will be relieved beyond measure. The stress has been nearly unbearable for them, living directly in the path of unpredictable flash flooding resulting from the Waldo Canyon burn scar. One of my friends has now made the sad decision to move out of Manitou, because this has all been just too much for her.
Colorado Springs has seen its share of flooding in the last few days, but parts north of us have had it far worse. The above photo was taken in Lyons, a picturesque town not far from beautiful Estes Park. I have shot many weddings in Lyons, most recently THIS one. Last summer I shot a wedding at a gorgeous ranch in Loveland called Sylvan Dale (photos HERE, showing a much more sunny, happy day), which is now a total ruin. In fact, the Big Thompson River, which runs through the property, apparently carved itself a new path and completely annihilated all the existing buildings, barns and even the ponds. I am heartbroken, and I can't even imagine how the owners must feel right now. Thankfully they were able to save all of their livestock before the water got out of hand, and that's a blessing.
Estes Park is under water, and so are parts of Greeley. Boulder is hard hit, along with the suburbs between it and northeast Denver. Then there's Longmont, Jamestown, practically all of (mostly rural) Weld County; Fort Collins (where just nine days ago I shot a wedding under sunny skies), Fort Morgan, Golden, parts of Denver, and of course Colorado Springs and Manitou Springs. People were being rescued by helicopter. Over a thousand are still unaccounted for, although I suppose that might be in part because cell phone service and electricity have been nonexistent for the last several days in the hardest hit areas. As many as a thousand are left stranded. They are saying about 1,500 homes have been destroyed, and close to 18,000 have been damaged. Some people may not be able to go home for months, because entire highways have been washed away. The loss of property is staggering, and yes, lives have been lost too, which is even worse. We are all so stressed! We need relief!
My big fear is this: living in a dry, arid climate like Colorado (well, normally, anyway) -- how many of these people had flood insurance? How many of them are looking at a total loss of home and property, and no way to recover it? My heart breaks for anyone in this position. Thankfully Pat and I live on top of a large hill, so we're not in a flood plain so to speak, but this crazy, weeklong event has proven that anything can happen.
I'll leave you on a (bitterly) humorous note. We could all use a laugh.