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Pictures from the Flood Zone

Until last week, I didn’t know what a flood looked like. In fact, before this past week, I had the complacent notion that the world would stay pretty much as it was when I was born, at least for the duration of my time on it. After all, how often does a 500-Year Flood actually happen in MY lifetime? And while I’ve long understood that the most apocalyptic events of our personal lives can happen in an instant, I had never seen how quickly such changes can happen on our planet.

This was a sidewalk near Erie, Colorado, with a bridge well over a small stream. The water had topped it during the night, and large parts of the sidewalk are gone.

Foot Bridge Under Flood (c) Piper Bayard

Foot Bridge Under Flood
(c) Piper Bayard

Normally, this bridge over the Left Hand Creek in Longmont, Colorado, has 8’6″ clearance over the sidewalk that runs underneath it next to a shallow stream. As you can see, there is a reason that bridge above it is so wide.

Bridge over Left Hand  Creek (c) Piper Bayard

Bridge over Left Hand
Creek
(c) Piper Bayard

And this is the scene downstream from that bridge. The neighborhood next to it was evacuated in preparation for a release from the dam above at Nederland. Normally, there is a foot path where this raging river is. Note the uprooted tree.

Left Hand Creek during the flood of 2013 (c) Piper Bayard

Left Hand Creek during the flood of 2013
(c) Piper Bayard

Up the road, the town of Lyons was devastated. No one was being allowed up the canyon toward Estes Park, but check out the water line on this building at Leukonen Brothers Stone at the edge of town. The owners had already cleaned out the mud next to this office, but a few feet out from it, their inventory was half buried in several feet of muck from the nearby river.

Water Level at Leukonen Brothers (c) Piper Bayard

Water Level at Leukonen Brothers
(c) Piper Bayard

Before last week, this was a flat pasture with a solid dirt road running through it.  A small stream passed under a bridge a hundred yards away. The river broke its banks upstream, flooded the pasture, and took out this stretch of road. The gap is about 100′ across and 15′ deep. There’s a free hanging gas line stretching across the gap, creating the ripple to the left of the picture. Below is a massive electrical pole. I’m afraid the picture doesn’t do the depth justice.

Former Road, New River (c) Piper Bayard

Former Road, New River
(c) Piper Bayard

This is the new river downstream from the washed out road. The day before, it stretched across the entire area in the picture, flooding houses downstream in a plain roughly 1/3 of a mile wide.

New River, Former Pasture (c) Piper Bayard

New River, Former Pasture
(c) Piper Bayard

This is another river that re-routed near Left Hand Canyon, just outside of Boulder. Its bridge is a couple hundred yards to the left, relatively unharmed.

New River Path Near Left Hand Canyon (c) Piper Bayard

New River Path Near Left Hand Canyon
(c) Piper Bayard

And the picture of the day — when life gives you mud, have a mud race. Well played, Boulder. Well played.

Boulder Mud Race (c) Piper Bayard

Boulder Mud Race
(c) Piper Bayard

As I traversed the area, I saw furniture drying on lawns and spoke with numerous exhausted workers restoring gas and water, as well as National Guard soldiers securing dangerous areas. Above me, the Chinook helicopters made their rescue runs, still hard at work rescuing those who are stranded in the mountains. No whining, and no slacking. Just the steady press and determination that we will push through this to better days.

For more pictures of the flood zone, see Susie Lindau’s excellent coverage at Susie Lindau’s Wild Ride. Storm Chasing Through Boulder’s 100-Year Flood

All the best to all of you for facing life’s overnight changes.

Piper Bayard

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25 thoughts on “ Pictures from the Flood Zone

  1. So glad you’re safe! The Estes Park area is one of our favorite parts of Colorado. The images of the damage are heartbreaking. Thinking about everyone there!

    • Estes Park is devastated. Tried to get up there, but the road was closed off at Lyons. The pictures coming out of there are heartbreaking.

  2. Stay safe! I feel so badly for all effected, and especially for the lives lost. 🙁 Here in Florida, our flooding usually comes from coastal storm surge, or from rainfall, not sweeping flash floods like there. I’ll take our tropical weather systems, which usually give us plenty of warning, over natural disasters anywhere else in the country. It’s hard to fathom areas where roads and bridges might not be rebuilt for a year or more. We have such flat terrain here, and no “winter” to interrupt or delay construction. (Summers are actually trickier for road crews because of heat and rain. Winters seems to be their preferred time.)

    • Interesting. I guess it’s all what you’re used to, because after experiencing a tropical storm/borderline hurricane in Belize, I’m really glad to be in the Rockies. 🙂

  3. As a bit of a side note, I was on the night editor desk (in 1976) of the Wyoming Casper-Star Tribune when the Big Thompson flood raged down through that canyon. This 500-year event that you have witnessed is so much more but fortunately fewer people lost their lives than in ’76. So glad you and yours are fine. I did think about you but know your survival skills are excellent and after all, you believe in bacon.
    Karen

    • ’76 was definitely devastating. People still remember that one and talk about it. I expect that fewer people lost their lives this time around because there is a collective memory of that flood.

      Go Team Bacon! 🙂

  4. Awesome pictures and I mean awe inspiring. God can do some mean s**t when He wants to. (God’s a She when it goes good.) Stay safe and dry.

  5. Thanks for this post. All info welcomed as we have family in CO. (All safe). Planning a fast trip to do what we can, but the fall wandering in RMC is not going to happen this year.
    It’s so backwards…flooding should be on the coastal plains here with hurricanes(where we are used to large amounts of rain/floods) not tearing up mountain communities that normally are dry and serene. Immediate worried about Glen Haven and Estes. CU Kids were sending pix about Boulder(stay out of the water! stay out of the water. sigh) ….the mud race is so in character. Thanks for a laugh during a tough time.
    May bacon find you and bring you joy.

    • It is definitely freakish to see so much water in the West. No one west of the Mississippi expects to live in the Land of a Thousand Lakes. And I thought that Mud Race was a hoot. I may go check it out.

      Thank you for the bacon blessings. 🙂

  6. I was in Ames, Iowa for a 100-year flood. I drove home from campus (Iowa State), and fifteen minutes later that road was “under” water. Pretty scary. My heart and prayers go out to the people in Colorado.

  7. I saw you in Susie’s flood zone post, Piper.

    I have a special place in my heart for Colorado. Of all the corporate relocations I made, Denver and the majestic mountains were my favorite place to live. And, now. there’s Texas.

    Yes. There are fun places to visit, good friends, BILLY BOBS (!)…

    Still.

    Mountains. Trees. Seasons.

    I miss them.

    I watched the news, horrified by what you and other friends in the area faced. One friend was turned back from rescuing her elderly parents in the middle of the night. They’re okay. But, I can’t imagine.

    I worried about the animals, the permanent damage to trees. But, I knew nothing could forever destroy the natural beauty that defines Colorado — most specifically the foothills, mountains, and cosmopolitan/country eclectic mix.

    The thing I do not hear out of this disaster is whining. I hear, “we’ll get over this. We’ll get through it. We’re tough.”

    • I’m so glad your friend’s parents are okay! That’s pretty scary. And you’re right. Westerners don’t whine. We just get to work. #lovetheWest

  8. Looks like it was a pretty horrifying and scary time. Glad things have settled. The floods didn’t make the news in NZ for a while, but I picked it up from the blogs of Susie Lindau and Phil Plait. And then it DID make the news because a couple of Kiwis living in Boulder were washed out of their home. World weather’s gone mad – the Dutch half of my family have had endless rain and no summer (they came out to NZ for some winter sun!). New Zealand’s just had storms rip through with as much damage to electricity infrastructure as the 2010-11 quakes.

    As I write this another thunderstorm is rolling through. I would say ‘where will it end;’, but I think we know. Time to stock up on Tactical Bacon.

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