I think at some point in all our lives we experience the angst of a flooded basement. When I still lived in Chicago I remember from early on the value of having a sump pump and praying that the electricity would not go out so the pump would work and keep our home dry. When a major sewer replacement project was completed near my home on the North Side, I didn’t give it much thought until torrential rains came and we would stay dry while other neighborhoods had to bale water. It was not pretty, it was not fun but all those memories now dim by comparison to what we’ve recently experienced here in Colorado.
Colorado is basically considered a semi-arid climate. It simply does not get the rain they get back East. I often hear from the “natives” stories of the glory days of weather in Colorado where the sun would shine an average of 320 days a year and summer days were always blessed with a cooling afternoon rain that came just in time to relieve the heat but not affect any evening activities. Not to mention the fact that there is no humidity here and much less snow than people perceive which, in more “normal” weather times makes the climate only slightly less than perfect. The one chink in the armor was the potential for flood but even most natives would admit that severe flooding was something they never experienced in their lifetimes. Until now…
The past several years the weather patterns here have changed not unlike weather patterns all over the world. True the mornings and the evenings can still be glorious, but the climate has become much more dry and the rains more infrequent. Wildfires tend to occur every year now and drought has ravaged forests making them a prime target for an opportune lightening strike or an errant cigarette butt. Very seldom does it rain all day here and rains are never the gentle soaking kind but more of the fierce deluge kind. But those deluges are pretty much short lived and so the earth is capable of tolerating them. Until now…
This week the rains came with a vengeance, and a city like Boulder which normally gets on average eight inches of rain in the month of September got eight inches of rain in an hour. Coupled with its location being directly at the base of the Foothills and the rain not only pounded the city but water also came pouring down from the mountains and enveloped it. Not good, devastating, a 100 year flood event.
I’ve never experienced devastation like this. The road that I travel to and from my job at Crate and Barrel collapsed and three cars went into the water (see the picture below). Granted it was a part of the road that is adjacent to my route, but I’ve traveled that same road many times before never once worrying for my well being. Now so many roads are closed and people all over are stranded. People are being zip-lined to safety over cresting rivers and creeks or rafted to drier land. Streets are loaded with debris and cars are traveling through water that crests at the top of their wheel wells. A rescue fire truck travelled through water that was at the level of its windshield. Roads were completely washed away, homes were torn off their foundations, people were and still are unaccounted for, and even though the sun is currently shining heavy rains are still being predicted for tonight.
But, there for the grace of God go I. As I was driving home from work Wednesday night around 9:30 p.m. my phone gave off a loud weird noise, one I had never heard before. It wasn’t until I got home that I realized that it was a flash flood warning, not a watch but a warning. I was driving in an area that at any moment could have flooded and flooded quickly and I did not even know it. I’m still trying to figure out if that was a blessing or a curse. But I got home safe and dry and still today my home is safe and dry. I am one of the lucky few. Most people cannot say that. It will take years to recover from this flood.
It’s times like these that I know that my mother is looking down on me and protecting me. It could have easily been us flooded, stranded, our home devastated. But it was not. And after seeing the breadth of the devastation in Boulder (with potentially more to come) I look back on those days of flooded basements in Chicago and say that we had no clue what flooding meant. It would have taken something as massive as Noah’s ark to survive this flood. I only hope and pray that those most affected find the courage and the strength to get through this. They can count on us to help along the way.