Saturday, September 14, 2013

News on the Flood

We received many emails and phone calls asking how we are doing here in Boulder. Apparently, our floods made the national and even international news by some accounts. The short answer is we’re doing fine. I want to thank you all for your kind wishes. Secondly, since we live on the outer rim of Boulder Valley instead of below at the foothills, we suffered very little damage. If fact, I see this as more of an inconvenience when compared with what others are going through. Entire structures, roads, cars, and even farmland is seen floating away.

            The rain started coming down Wednesday night. We hadn’t heard of any warnings and took it as just another summer shower. In fact, Boulder is so arid people were quite happy to see the reservoirs filling up. The storm continued throughout the night and all day Thursday. But I’m getting ahead of myself.
            As I got up to make breakfast I received a voice mail saying our daughter’s school was cancelled. The local morning news shows began airing video of rising creeks and rivers and the weather people had grim faces and vividly graphic maps with dire warnings. Boulder Creek was running at 2,700 CFS (cubic feet per second showing the speed rate which indicates the amount of water flowing) instead of its typical 200. Boulder County recorded 11.6 inches of rain in this three-day period, whereas we only get about 14 inches for the entire year.
            Our porch, which extends off the back of our house, was leaking from a multitude of places on the ceiling. Water began to seep in the basement through several of the window wells.  Since the porch has a stone floor where water can find its own way out under the screen doors, I decided to attend to the basement first.
            Three of the wells had filled with water and reached the window itself where they poured in the house. My wife grabbed some towels to soak up the water while I took a bucket and started bailing to get the water level lower. The wells are approximately three feet deep. Sitting on my knees I reached in as far as I could scooping out the water. With a band-aid on those I turned my attention to the porch.
            As I mentioned the water was dripping from a number of spots and couldn’t be from one or two leaks. Besides, it never leaked before. I figured the gutters must be clogged, which caused the water to back up on the shingles and seep in underneath them. They usually don’t need a cleaning until the fall but this was not a typical storm.
            With the rain continuing I got out a ladder to clear the lower ones and then climbed out a window onto the roof for the ones on the second floor. A gush of water came with each one I unclogged. The porch ceiling stopped its dripping almost immediately and stayed that way.
            A small pond was growing in our backyard. A grabbed a garden hose and snaked it from the pond to the front of the house down to the rain gutter. Gravity did the rest. Even though it’s only a trickle it seems to be helping.
            Now I turned my attention back to the wells. Water was pouring in but not from the top so a tarp wouldn’t help. It was coming from a number of tiny cracks in the walls of the wells. That’s why some stayed bone dry during the entire storm (like the ones by my computer and studio which I am grateful for).
            Without knowing a way to seal off the leaks I decided to stay up as long as the rain came down and continuously bail out the water to avoid any more leaks entering the basement. For the next twenty-two hours I would go through a very tiring routine. Putting on dry clothes, I head out in the rain with two buckets, one to scoop and one to fill. Kneeling in the mud, I would scoop out as much as I could reach, then carry the buckets down to the street and pour them out. With usually two to three trips per well I was making about eight to nine rounds each time. The wells were filling up in about fifteen minutes. As soon as I had them emptied, Cas would have dry clothes for me to change into and I’d sit by the fire until it was time to head out.
            The news stations were telling us the rain would not let up for another two days and I was hoping their lousy record of unpredictability would work in my favor. Throughout the night I headed out to empty the wells. Often my hands would slip on the wet Plexiglas covers causing small paper-like cuts. The rains slowed down so now I was heading out every twenty minutes, then forty, then one hour and finally two. With two fans and a space heater going all day, the carpet is drying up and the damage is minimal.
            The rain stopped by us around 10 am Friday with scattered clouds and blue skies on order for much of the day. Its Friday evening and we may get another inch but that seems unlikely now and I’m looking forward to a good nights sleep.
            Saturday is offering another mix of sun and clouds. Speaking with many of my neighbors they each had tales of flooded basements, but little damage. The ones that got hit the hardest are the folks in Lyons, Longmont, Estes Park, and Ward to name just a few. With only three access roads, the entire town of Lyons was shut off. Our own version of “Under the Dome” so to speak. The creeks and river have slowed and it looks like the worst is over. Now, it’s back to cleaning up.