Saturday, October 5, 2013

Colorado's Great Flood - Finding Peace and Proof

Flooded Bear Creek in Evergreen, Colorado

"Be thou the rainbow in the storms of life. The evening beam that smiles the clouds away, and tints tomorrow with prophetic ray." ~ Lord George Gordon Byron

Colorado has suffered from a horrendous drought for about fourteen years. The summers are hot and arid while the winters have been cold and dry. With less snowfall in the high country, lakes and reservoirs are parched from record-low water levels. Trees are dying and the aged pine forests are like giant matchsticks waiting to be struck.

After an early outbreak of devastating wildfires, it looked as though the summer was going to be another scorcher. Then in mid-July something strange happened. We started getting daily, afternoon thunder showers. August in Evergreen was cool and wet. Dependable rainfall satisfied the thirsty aspen and produced abundant wildflowers. Everything was perfect in the mountains, again.

So when it started raining on Tuesday afternoon, September 10th, that seemed normal. Stunningly, it didn't stop until four days later on Saturday morning. What happened in between will become legendary. A slow-moving storm front moved up from the Gulf and got trapped between a high pressure system to the west and low pressure from the east. The monsoon was pushed upslope against the Northern Front Range, stalled out and released unprecedented amounts of precipitation.

After a thorough soaking on Wednesday, things began getting serious on Thursday. Boulder received 9 inches of rain in one day and water was screaming down the spectacular drainages up north. Mountain towns like Estes Park, Jamestown and Lyons were transformed into islands and became isolated from the mainland. Lives and homes were lost during the initial deluge. The destruction was unbelievable.

Bear Creek flows out of Mount Evans, meanders through Evergreen and then splashes down a scenic canyon into the city. A dam was constructed on the creek in 1927 just above the historic, old downtown creating Evergreen Lake. Thursday night we made our way there to investigate how things were holding up. The situation was precarious.

By Friday morning, the beautiful homes on Upper Bear Creek were being flooded and some of the businesses below the dam were terribly damaged, most notably Cactus Jack's Saloon & Grill. The main highway became impassable so the schools were forced to close as the town was literally cut in half. Friday evening, we walked down to the lake in a light drizzle. The landscape still looked bleak.

Turbulent waters rushed out of the foothills and spilled into the South Platte. A destructive swell swept through Eastern Colorado all the way to Julesburg. Then, just when the disaster was turning biblical, the colorful covenant appeared out of the gray clouds and the rain stopped. After a week of distress, I returned to my lake. It was there I found peace and proof in two white doves. The floodwaters have finally receded.

It started raining on Tuesday afternoon

It rained for four days straight

Evergreen Dam on Thursday evening

The landscape looked bleak

Bear Creek meanders through Evergreen

The situation at the dam was precarious

Thursday evening Bear Creek was rising quickly

Evergreen Lake flooded

I returned to the lake searching for answers

The colorful covenant

This white dove appeared as the floodwaters receded

2 comments:

  1. We followed this on the news here in New England and were saddened by the loss of lives and homes. Our thoughts and prayers to those affected as they rebuild and reclaim their lives and homes. Beautiful rainbow!

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    1. Thank you Judi, it was a massive, unique storm. It rained for four days straight. We were unaffected at our house but all around us there was terrible destruction. It will take a long time for Colorado to fully recovery from this disaster.

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