It has been a very difficult few days here in Boulder County. As you’ve probably heard, unless you’ve been under a rock, we have had rain and flooding of biblical proportions. I have lived in and around Boulder for over 30 years now and have never seen anything like it. Have never felt anything like it. The closest I have experienced was in spring of 1995, when I cut a business trip to Philadelphia short to come home and hope that I still had a house. The flight attendant gave me a bottle of champagne, saying I could drink it to celebrate if I did, and to drown my sorrows if I didn’t.
I did. I still had my little white house surrounded by lilacs on the banks of Coal Creek. It’s still my house in name and mortgage payment, but now ex-Pat and Kelsea live there with the menagerie of two big dogs (Roscoe and Champ) and two yellow cats (Dusty and Mel). I left five years ago on Halloween, taking very little with me but a lot of hope and fear and pain.
The little white house has a very special place in my heart. Ex-Pat hasn’t taken good care of it and that makes me very sad. But it’s still my little house with its giant fireplace and knotty pine walls and huge lilac bushes. And the gentle sound of Coal Creek, sometimes trickling at the bottom of the 20-foot bank, but more often dry. Not something you would ever expect to see raging.
That shot was from today. Kelsea took a video yesterday that I wish I could share, but I can’t figure out how to embed it.
When Coal Creek flooded yesterday, I was worried. I was calling them constantly, checking on the status. They had received notice to evacuate at 5:00 pm. Pat chose to ignore that. (That’s Pat.) But in one of my check-in calls, he told me that the water was coming in under the kitchen door, more and more of it. It was ankle-deep in the old part of the house (which is an old mining cabin from 1910, with no foundation but dirt.) The root cellar under the kitchen floor, which houses the furnace and the water heater, was full of water, up to the top of its stairs. They started gathering things to leave, even though the bridge by the house was completely submerged by floodwaters. Kelsea’s voice broke as she asked me if I had a digital copy of the picture of her and her Grandma that she keeps on her wall.
They loaded things into the truck. They put the dogs on leashes. They put the cats (fighting and hissing) into the carriers. And then waited a little more. The waters stopped getting deeper and just sat there. And then they started to recede, to vanish, to soak into the carpets and floors and anything sitting on them. They stayed on the couch and watched movies, since they still had power, water, and cable. And the waters were gone. The creek backed down. The huge backyard stopped looking like an ocean. They were all right.
It was so painful to not be there. I felt helpless. I felt powerless. It felt like when my Mother was dying, except I couldn’t be there. It showed me my need to be in control, to be fixing things, and you can’t be in control of or fix a flood. I was breaking, for my daughter, for my animals, for my little house, for the things I left behind – heirlooms from my great-grandmother, that I left so that Kelsea’s home would not feel so strange after her mother left. So much of some many hard things coming back to haunt me.
I watched the news until 2:00 am, waiting for a 30-foot wall of water that fortunately never came. I slept fitfully by MKL (who had the flu, my poor baby, but I was so incredibly glad that he was there) for a few hours, waking to find that my bus route was shut down and travel was inadvisable, so I worked from home. At the end of the day, I drove over to ex-Pat’s.
The downstairs was a wreck.
Friends from down the street and Niece #1 came to help. We moved furniture, pulled up the rugs, dragged them outside. Sadly, I lost some books that I’d had for 30 years. We worked for a few hours, mopping over and over again to get rid of the mud and leaves and dirt. The house has flood insurance, a requirement of the mortgage, so ex-Pat is trying to get the claims person to come out. He is concerned about mold from all the damp, and the water was pretty toxic. But the house still stands. For now.
The rain stopped enough for clean up efforts to get underway, but it’s supposed to rain more tonight and on Sunday. The creek rose two feet in the last hour I was there. However, the house is on the high side of the bank, and the flooding last night was more caused by the city unwisely opening a spillway at the back side of the town. Hopefully, they heard enough harsh words for that decision today to keep them from repeating it.
It could have been so much worse. So many in Boulder County have lost everything. Beautiful little towns like Lyons are cut off from the world, with residents having been evacuated by the National Guard. People have lost their lives. This experience again makes me examine my relationship with and attachment to “things”, something I have ruminated on for many, many years. I don’t think I’m ready to write about that yet. But I will in a while. Right now, I am still coming off the shock and fear and surreality of the last couple of days, feeling a wee bit of PTSD, and hoping that the sunshine will stick around for a while.
This was the 100 year flood that was way overdue. Meteorologists say that it was so bad, it probably won’t happen again for 1,000 years. I know that, either way, I am glad I won’t be around to see it again.