As many of you know, I serve a small congregation based in the community of Drake, CO. Drake lies on Hwy 34 about half way between Loveland and Estes Park in Big Thompson Canyon. On Thursday, the Big Thompson River began to rise dramatically through the canyon because of a stalled storm over the Front Range of Colorado. Flood stage for the river is at six feet and it eventually reached over ten feet. The Big Thompson Canyon is fairly narrow for about 20 miles and the volume of water that rushed through was simply amazing. By Saturday, the damage was overwhelming and it is still raining. The river has crested, but still runs over nine feet.
The good news is that, as far as we know, we have not lost anyone. We do have a couple of people we cannot find, but we assume they got out safely or are still in their homes. Obviously, we will keep trying to find them. In these situations it is normal to lose people for a couple of days. My family and I live in Loveland, outside of the flood plain.
Two older women were killed by flood waters near the homes of some of our members and two of our members have lost their homes. The flooding was widespread, affecting communities as far south as Denver and as far east as Fort Morgan so far. Estimates say that over 1500 homes have been destroyed. In the canyon, the damage is great. The road is so eroded that CDOT says it may be eighteen months before it will be repaired.
Our little church building still stands, but we don’t know its condition. The house across the road is gone. Most of the people have been evacuated by helicopter, as there are no passable roads in any direction from the Drake community. It will be several months before any of them will be able to return home. This is, of course, just one of the areas of Colorado hit hard by floods this weekend, so resources are spread thin and restoration will be slow.
Obviously, the material damage is great and will take time, money, and a great deal of energy to repair. But the psychological damage is even greater. Most of the folks in our little chapel had retired to the mountains to enjoy the scenery, the birds, and the fishing. Everything they had was tied up in their homes and community. Now that is all gone. Those who will be able to return may find more change than they will be able to handle. Neighbors are gone; yards have been ripped away by flood waters. One man said that his cars are in his garage, but there is a ten-foot drop at the end of his driveway. Almost all have basements or ground levels full of mud and sewage and won’t be able to do anything about it until Spring. There will almost certainly be health and emotional struggles associated with this, besides spiritual struggles.
Your prayers will be most appreciated. Since most of our folks evacuated to Loveland, where I live, we will try to find a meeting place so we can maintain some sense of continuity. Finding everyone is top priority and finding a meeting place is next. Many changes are coming and change is harder and less welcome for those who are older.
You can find YouTube videos about the Big Thompson Canyon flood and there is a great deal of information on the Web, so I won’t post any pictures here. I intend to continue with regular blog posts on Wednesday.
Thanks again for your prayers.