Coming home…Boulder’s 100 year flood

Coming home has been much harder than I imagined. In many ways the last 7 days have been the hardest, to date, of this ordeal. It has been 7 weeks since this journey began. 2 weeks to the day since the surgery. Upon reflection I did not imagine this would be the hard part, and yet physically, emotionally, and spiritually the last 7 days have tested me in a much more subtle and insidious manner than all of the other trials to date. Of course arriving back just as the 100 year flood was starting certainly did not help…

We arrived home late Tuesday evening on the 10th. We woke Wednesday morning to a cloudy and grey day. At first it seemed to be a perfect setting. Cozy and subdued, perfect for taking it easy and beginning the healing. I thought of it as a bit of a gift. Unlike  usual September days in Boulder it was not 87 degrees, beautiful, and sunny. I did not have to confront my physical infirmaties head on with the endless legions of cyclists passing our house, runners on every road, and hikers in all of the mountain parks. Brooke purposely kept her schedule open to be with me. So we dropped the kiddos back at school, after a 7 day hiatus, and came home, made some tea, got cozie and watched a movie.

Wednesday night around 12:15 Brooke and I awoke, as did most of Boulder, to the most amazing clap of thunder and immediate bolt/flash of lightening I have ever seen. I sleep like a rock, difficult to wake. When I heard this boom both Brooke and I bolted straight up, our hearts racing. You could feel the electrical charge permeating the air and our bodies. I sat and listened to the storm for a while. I quickly realized that in 15 years in Boulder I had never heard so much rain fall so quickly. As I listened it became increasingly clear to me that this was going to be trouble. And considering our house, like many parts of Boulder, lay in the 100 year flood plane, I felt a growing cause for concern. I climbed out of bed, and over Brooke’s protests, and the fog of pain killers, I went and got dressed, grabbed my rain jacket and a high powered flashlight and told Brooke that I was going to go and quickly scout the surrounding neighborhood to get a sense of what was going on.

As I left the drive I could barely see out my windshield the rain was falling so hard. I did my first pass around the area and could see that the roads and drains were already at capacity. 20 minutes later I almost went home when I saw the first real surge go down a major street. Brooke called and I gave her the update, and while on the phone I watched the situation change before my eyes. In less than 40 minutes the standing water was pooling so quickly that intersections I had just been through 20 minutes earlier were rapidly becoming impassable. Emergency vehicles, police, and fire trucks were starting to show up everywhere. I was driving a high clearance off road jeep with big tires and a lifted suspension…and the water was coming up to my headlights!

I went to check on the nearby creek bed, usually dry, and as I came close I saw another truck try to push through and get stuck, I reversed back out quickly and turned around. We did not sleep much that night. Two hours later we had a river flowing around our house, front and back, and a 3″+ lake growing behind our damned fence. All of our mulch, playground fill, and a rapidly growing mud stream, were preventing the water from flowing and slowly working its way up to our foundation line. I waded out into thigh deep water and started to clear the debris from the mesh fence, careful to only use my right arm and not lift anything over 10lbs. 45 minutes later the majority of the water drained and we dodged our first bullet of the flood.

The next 48 hours were a blur. The heavy rains continued, and the waters began to rise. The 100 year flood was announced and as we went into Thursday night a flooded first floor seemed like a very real possibility. Our section of North Boulder, and our street in particular became a serious battleground where many were fighting to save their homes from a continually growing river. We had whitewater rapids in the middle of our street on Thursday night.

So two days back, a natural disaster is declared, and I am incapable of doing much at all. Wednesday night and Thursday I already felt bad that I could not assist in the community and help all those around us who were in need. By Thursday night it looked as if we might not make it through the evening unscathed, and there was little to nothing I could do. The first floor of our house if filled with 200-300 year old antiques that we inherited when my mother died 3 years earlier. And if the water rose I was not going to be able to move them to safety. In light of the bigger picture, and the incredible loss of so many homes and even whole communities, like Lyons CO, losing some antiques would have been minor in comparison. And thankfully we received more blessings, our berms held, and only our crawl space took on 1.5′ of water. We were lucky again.

Yet the reality was not the potential loss of material possessions. The hard reality to accept was that I was in no position to help my family. God help us if it got so bad we had to evacuate. Instead of being the man of the house and protecting my family I was a physically lame dependent and that left Brooke as the only able adult in the house. I was directly confronted with, forced to accept, and in fact had to surrender to, my vulnerability. I did my best, and it did not sit well with me. In fact it took it’s toll. I did too much physically, and emotionally I was wrung out, neither of which our positive contributors to my healing. Another lesson in impermanence and letting go.

As the rains ended and the water subsided we learned of so many in our community who have suffered mightily from this disaster. From flooded basements to complete loss of homes thousands were impacted. Our hearts go out to all those struggling to put the pieces back together.

In the vein of “going and extra mile”, Brooke and several local women have started a collection of clothes for donation. In just a few days we are close to filling one of our garage bays. It is uplifting to see the community generosity and support from so many. Brooke and team have found 16 families who lost everything and they will come by this weekend to “shop” among the many goods we have collected. The remainder will be donated locally to the flood relief effort. Just one of many examples of members of the community coming together in support of each other, the subtle blessings of hardships.

Love is the Flowing, the Outpouring, the Rendering from the Heart and Soul of Emotional Goodness to Yourself First – and then to Others in Your Life.

– The Hoffman Institute



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