Returning Home to Flood-Ravaged but Hero-Rich Boulder

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As I mentioned last week, we were traveling abroad when record rainfall ravaged Deke’s hometown of Boulder, Colorado. Boulder, which normally gets around 1.7 inches of rain in September, got over 17 inches in one day. Boulder Creek had a 1x increase in its water flow. And whilst Deke and I studied the 1-year and 5-year flood maps of Boulder from across the Atlantic, we came home to the aftermath of what some are now calling a 1-year rainfall event. Do they sell insurance for that?

The pictures and stories were harrowing, and we weren’t sure exactly what to expect, knowing that there had been basement flooding in both of Deke’s homes.

The floodwaters that turned the streets into veritable rivers had receded, but piles of ripped up carpets and temporary large-scale trash containers all around the city served as a reminder of what we missed. Thanks to some quick, tireless work by neighbors, family, and friends who responded to our frantic texts and calls from Spain, the water had already been pumped out of the basement at Deke’s condo and a preliminary rescue mission had started on the contents. Left behind were some interesting smells and and some notable casualties:

Although there is some poignancy to this waterlogged collection of Deke’s life’s work, and the structural damage to his property is not insignificant, there were others in the area who lost their homes, their cars, and even their lives. Our friends and family members in Boulder definitely fell into the “it coulda been worse” category.

The creek in back of Deke’s family home didn’t breach. The charming server in our favorite restaurant was rescued by a policeman from what she called “class 5 rapids” down a main thouroughfare. Deke’s producer, Max and family were unscathed (albeit unsettled) by the waters rising in their backyard, and we got to find out, in that way you do when faced with disaster, just how hard-working, generous, and tireless a community can be and what’s truly important in the end.

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  • Keep smiling

    Really sorry to hear about this and the impact on your local community.
    About 8 years ago my local area in London got hit by a freak tornado and our house got totally trashed along with many others.
    It took over 6 months to fix it all up and get back to normal.
    When you see all your possessions trashed it is pretty upsetting, but they are not much more than that.
    As long as no one gets hurt then that is the most important thing.
    Life goes on and it is surprising how quickly time flies past and what today is a total disaster becomes in a few years a “fond” memory and can en-richen your life experience.
    People really bond in this situations and our local community became much stronger as a result of our local natural borne disaster.

    Life goes on!!

  • Not sure what to say..

    As long time ‘fan’ of you and your work, my heart goes out to you and your family. It is true it is a rallying point for neighbors and friends, but it still doesn’t make it any better. My heart and prayers go out to you!

  • Sorry to hear that/Idea

    I live up in Longmont. “Lake Longmont”, as it is now known. I’m sorry to hear/see about your wetness.

    You mentioned heroes. I had a thought:

    Posting enabled for all.

    Haven’t even started talking about it until now.

    All the best,

    Andrew Webb •

  • Sorry to see all the damage;

    Sorry to see all the damage; as a former Boulderite I’ve alternated between being unbelievably glad that I no longer live in the basement of a condo that backed to Boulder Creek* and worrying for my friends that are still there.  I’m most glad to hear that your friends and family are safe.  Things can mostly be replaced, people can’t.  As to the books, if you want replacements I have one suggestion that’s a bit obscure.  Check to see if Denver Public Library still has any of them.  They always try to sell the outdated software books at the annual sale they have, but I know I’ve seen some repeat from year to year, so there’s a chance (albeit a small one) that they’ll have some they want to get rid of.

    * I haven’t heard anything specific about it, but it’s a safe bet that the past tense applies; it would surprise me if that building is still there once clean-up is done.  It wouldn’t surprise me, however, if the condo was in the creek.

  • Best Wishes

    Am very sorry to hear about your losses from the floods, but grateful that you were safe and sound elsewhere.  God Bless the wonderful ‘heroes’ that helped while you were out of town.  You’ve done so much to help so many; it is great to see you get help for yourselves.  Adding my thoughts and prayers to those of everyone else.  Know that for every one who has the time and ability to make a note here, there are thousands who share out sentiments in their hearts.

    Warm HUGS and Thoughts   — VJ (VeryJoyful)

  • Just a general comment

    A big THANK YOU for everyone’s kind comments.

    It’s crazy that at 5550 feet (my condo, elevation), it can flood here. They say it’s the shale. You know, whatever. Right now I’d like to cram the shale, the rain, my ruined crap, and the soaking wet drywall (ha! that’s ironic!) up my insurance adjuster’s butt.

    That said, we’re relatively lucky. Lots of flooding, lots of ruined stuff. But no cascading sewage, no power outages, no runaway cars, no loss of children. Sure, our lives are in a perpetual state of hilarious turmoil. It is raining, once again, right now, this very minute. Ha! Ha ha!! Ha ha ha!!!

    But fortunately, Boulder is an organized city. We’re smart, we’re capable, we’re survivors. We got NCAR, we got NIST, we got the last surviving Chautauqua.

    Frankly, I think we have some more flooding ahead of us. And this is going to be a gnarly winter. (My weatherman buddy tells me we’re looking at 4-foot snows. Whoo!!) But, hey, nothing’s currently on fire, so we’re good.

  • My goodness

    I’m so sorry for your losses.

    It’s funny, the tornadoes out this way have reeked way more damage than this flood. And yet the flood gets a ton of coverage.

    I was in Spain when this started and the Boulder flood made the equivalent of their Headline News. I watched it over breakfast.

    Why a flood in a remote part of America—with not a single fatality in the city of Boulder—made global news? The response of my companion (Colleen, who wrote this article): “A flood makes for compelling footage. It’s wild to see the water.” I think she’s right. It’s the spectacle of the thing.

  • You are so sweet

    I was talking to my bookkeeper today. Among others, her two oldest sons jumped in and helped out while I was gone.

    I talked with her at length today about whether I should compensate them. She isn’t sure. She thinks they should understand that helping is a thing you do in a situation like this.

    I understand her perspective. I would argue the same from the perspective of my two sons. But I want to give them a token of my appreciation, a $50 bill each.

    We’re still talking.

  • I love the idea

    Unfortunately (or perhaps fortunately, I don’t really know), I have no photos because it all happened when I was abroad.

    I will tell you, my heroes were John Novotny, Chris Entrekin, her two sons, my ex-wife Elizabeth Little-McClelland, and Jeff Brison. All of whom risked time, energy, and skin to have my back.

    Just writing that makes me feel somewhat guilty. I chose a bad time to take a great vacation. I’m fortunate to have friends.

  • Thanks!!!

    Every vote of friendship is hugely appreciated.

  • Well, you know, it’s funny

    I have a pal, my producer, a guy named Max Pixleysmith, whose house touches Boulder Creek. It’s right on it.

    He had to evacuate his home and live in Denver for a few days.

    After all my stuff, I was like, “Dude, are you okay?” B/c he’s right there in the river and I figured his house washed away.

    100% okay, no damage. Nothing.

    You never know around here. It’s wacky.

  • Not sure if this is related

    Not sure if this stuff is related?
    If it is very heartening to see such a great community response.
    There seems to be a twitter feed.
    Hope all is going well for you and you are gradually getting back to normal out there.
    According to the climate experts they tell us (unfortunately) freak occurrences like this will become more common.

    Best of luck to everyone out in and around the Boulder zone!

  • A Way to Save Some of the Classics


    I remember seeing a piece on the floods in Venice, Italy many, many moons ago. The folks that were restoring the books there, many of them 100’s of years old and first editions, used talcum powder between the pages and once they had dried out a small soft paint brush to dust off the powder.

    You might be able to save some of your irreplaceable classics.

  • Definitely filing the flood info, wvsande

    I like the comparison of The Freehand 4 Bible with Venetian classic texts!

  • Hey, everyone, thanks for virtual support!

    This thing has sucked, mostly b/c, you know, you lose junk you had stored in flimsy boxes. And then you think, I couldn’t have cared that much about it b/c of the flimsy boxes. And then you shake your fists at the sky and cry, “Why?! Why for the flimsy boxes, Lord?! There’s a Target with those plastic McFlimsies right down the street?! Why oh why Lord did you inspire some fella to invent cardboard (which is quite porous in flood situations, which I thought You rather suggested would not happen anymore)?!!!”

    Happily, I have more copies of my books in a top-secret secured location that no one must know about. Altho, really, seeing that Skeletuns graphic in print makes me mostly happy that I don’t have to create grayscale halftones anymore. Paper. Stupid, stupid paper.

    Now if only my carpet guy and plumber would wrap things up . . . aw, fooey.

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