The Great Northern Colorado Flood: Aftermath

Thank you Lyons, Wishing you well and a quick recovery.

That’s the sign hanging from my favorite barbeque restaurant in Lyons, Smokin’ Dave’s.  It’s not open yet, but the building is still standing.  The town opened last week, almost two months since the flood.  Most of the side roads are closed, and debris still covers most of the surfaces.  Smashed vehicles, broken bridges, and mud litter the road, but the people are out, shoveling, sitting on their rooftops hammering, sitting in front of the local shops eating ice cream and waving at cars.

There’s a new sign by the road leading to Estes Park: “This road repair brought you by your National Guard and the State of Colorado.  Governor John Hickenlooper.”  It looks so official, so bright, a step in the right direction.  The road leads through the curving canyon upwards.  The road is new, hugging the edge of the rock wall.  The river covers where the old road was. The beautiful St Vrain river, once narrow, is far wider now.  Massive boulders washed down and litter the ravine, along with massive trees, now upside down, roots skyward.  Bright orange highway pylons and wrecked cars float below.  We drive on, passing the ruins of a hotel, a church, homes.  The church’s pews lay shattered outside, mixed with tree limbs and mud.  Another pile of mud is stacked with furniture and broken children’s bicycles.  Someone’s mattress hangs from a low tree branch.  Massive shelves have been cut into the ravine, wiped smooth as a beach, the trees torn away.  Horses wade through marshy land and drink from new pools.  The road is rough, patched in.  A woman stands by her mailbox, cutting up the tree that was driven through her fence.

This continues all the way up to Estes; the bottom portion of the forest lies in the river.  Estes, also once under water, has cleaned up impressively, and is jammed with people.  The government shutdown nearly killed them.  The only open road to them was in Rocky Mountain national Park, which was closed, so they were stranded, and lacking the tourists that carry them through the season.  Hickenlooper paid to open the road in spite of the shutdown.  The town begged for help when the road opened this week, and I was happy to see that many people responded.  The owner of the bookstore said she hadn’t seen traffic like it in years.  I bought a cookie from a nearby shop, and the owner said the shop is for sale or she’ll file for an emergency loan, but the shutdown hurt her shop badly. Hopefully, the surge of people trying to revive the local economy will help get the town back on its feet.

Many people have forgotten about the flood outside of our area; life moves on, after all.  But if you’re in Colorado and can spare the time or money, go spend some in Lyons and Estes.  They need it.  More than anything, they need the smiling faces.  One of the shop owners I spoke to said she was just so happy to see people again, because it meant that the town could heal up, and they weren’t forgotten.

Many thanks to the National Guard for all the people they saved and all the damage they repaired.

I took pictures from my car.  Please remember, the road is fixed, but this is far from over for us.

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A house that collapsed in the flood.  you can see where the river rose up and tore the land down by those houses on the ridge.

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What the cars look like on the side of the road.

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The remains of a bridge.

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The remains of a highway guardrail wrapped around a tree.  The guardrail remains went for miles, draped in trees.

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Once a bed and breakfast, I believe.

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