The year I was born the Big Thompson River Valley experienced the deadliest flash flood in my beautiful home state’s recorded history.
Actually, it was during the celebration of Colorado’s bicentennial of statehood, and also the week that my parents brought my sister and I home – their newly adopted 6 week old twin girls.
It was a massive flash flood that sent a 30 ft wall of water through the canyon after 4 hours of heavy rain poured from a stalled out storm system; it decimated everything in its path and took 144 lives, incredibly fast and destructive.
That was “The Big One,” the one everyone in the north part of Colorado always talked about, the one I grew up hearing about as the worst.
The water that came this week was different. Slow, steady, unrelenting rain over days and days. It wasn’t one flash flood, coming down one canyon. It was waves of flash floods coming down a whole system of canyons, again and again and again.
I dropped Jr off for NeNe time at my parents’ house on Thursday morning, after checking to make sure that there was no water in the basement of The Casa so far, (this is the first real test we have had since we bought the place,) just in time to see the first news report of a road a mile away collapsing and the drivers of 3 cars (thankfully) being saved by swift water rescue teams.
The same road we took to swimming lessons when we were very young, out through the endless farmers’ fields and over the rolling hills that flow from where the foothills end to where the prairie begins. The road we all used to avoid the highway between our growing little hometowns and Boulder when we were in highschool. The road where the memorial for two of my highschool classmates sits, marking the spot where their car left the road the night they died. The road I traveled in the back seat of my parents’ Tahoe, for the less-than-five-minute drive from their house, in my last hours as a single girl, to the little farm-house where The Mr. and I were married. The road that leads to our favorite little old town area where you can find us at least once each week now, and still out to the back roads into Boulder that I am teaching The Mr. to know and navigate. Collapsed by the days of rain.
We watched the little reservoir attached to our pocket neighborhood rising, and the drainage creeks starting to rush instead of amble, I checked the basement, checked the windows, checked the roof – watched the TV coverage of Boulder, of the water rising and filling places I’ve loved past and present and worried about friends who’ve made their homes in the canyons, the foothills, and on the plains in the path of the endless, unstoppable water. Into the small, dark, lonely hours of the morning I checked, and I watched.
Jr. had a stomach virus, so I cuddled and rocked and comforted, grateful for the excuse to be that close to my toddler who usually can’t slow down for a squeeze from mom.
The rain fell, Boulder and the towns east of it being washed over by the strength of the flow from the canyons – towns to the west, above Boulder in the hills, cut off completely from anyone, overtaken almost completely by water.
All through Friday and into today, in skies that have a few times turned Colorado blue briefly before clouds built back in, air support flies back and forth overhead providing assistance to areas unreachable by any other means. On the ground skilled personnel work to reach those in need of help. Downstream, the small towns on the Eastern plains brace for the coming and continuing flooding as the rushing water takes its inevitable course.
Everyone watches the skies, listens for the rumble of thunder. Knows the forecast is for more rain.
This will be “The Big One” now. The one Jr will hear about as he grows up here. Mercifully, the loss of lives has been far lower. The destruction more substantial than I can force myself to comprehend.
My mind and my heart and my prayers today are with the people up that little washed out back road I hold so dear. Those affected in towns still underwater, those finding what is left as it begins to recede, and those watching the water still rising now.