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Published in the August 13, 2014, edition of the Redstone Review, a retrospective of the one-year flood anniversary

This time the news is about us…

By Amy Reinholds

The first call on Thursday morning of September 12, 2013, was from our friend in Nederland who wanted to know if we were OK. “Yeah, we just got up. We’re trying to get our internet connection working. I hope I don’t have to drive into work today.”

“I don’t think you’ll be able to drive into work,” she said. “It sounds really bad.” I told her how we had heard the blaring cell phone notifications after we went to bed and had groggily turned off our phones, thinking that people who lived near the river and up the canyon would be watching the water, and everyone would be safe. Later, I learned we had slept through the town siren. “We’ll keep you updated,” I told my friend. “Thanks for checking on us.”

After I hung up, I started to get breakfast and sat at the computer, logging into my work email, and seeing what info I could find about Lyons on the internet.

The phone rang again, and Caleb answered. It was a friend who asked if he and his girlfriend and their dog could come stay at our house. How was our place? Did we have room? They had been up all night after packing up all their belongings, as much as they could fit in their two cars, from their rented house on Evans Street. They drove up to Longs Peak Drive, but were staying in a house already filled with a dozen or so people, children, and pets. Caleb told him that were were fine on Reese Street and they should come over. We had a guest room for them, and we would keep our two cats in the basement.

That’s how our day started. When waking up the next two mornings we were in town, my first thoughts were about what it would be like if the rivers hadn’t overflowed and water rushed through our town. After taking a much needed nap on Thursday afternoon, our friends staying with us said they had hoped it was all a dream. Some other friends who came by that afternoon and napped on the sofa felt the same way. Water was flowing into their basement, but they had gotten all the valueable recording studio equipment out the night before by staying up all night. What if we could just get up, stretch, rub our eyes, and it turned out to be just another ordinary morning where we needed to make coffee and only worry about things like work and a daily routine?

I looked back at email updates that I sent coworkers, friends, and family who lived outside Colorado, trying to convey what it was like in Lyons.

A note I sent my managers on September 12, when I continued to work from home:

I am OK, but we are seeing news on the internet of a lot of damage in my area.
I live in Lyons, and friends who live near the St. Vrain river evacuated and are staying at my house.
Right now there are no open roads out of Lyons, but we have power (and fairly stable internet) and are safe and dry.

On Sept 13, we lost all utilities and internet, but I was able to get a text through to my coworker, who sent this email:

I received a text message from Amy R. asking me to relay an update….
She is doing OK but has no electricity or internet and only spotty cell coverage. It might be a few days before they can leave her town by car – right now only the National Guard is transporting people out as needed for emergency situations. They are hoping to find out more information over the next few days.

On September 16, 2013:

Caleb and I live on a hill in Lyons so had no water damage or flooding issues on our property. We hosted some other friends who live near the St Vrain river for two nights. We had no issues but all utilities were cut off Friday for various reasons. On Saturday, we safely drove out of Lyons with our two cats and are staying at Caleb’s coworker’s house in north Longmont, a neighborhood that has not been affected by flooding. We have access to all utilities again.

The one road from the Colorado front range in and out of Lyons is open, but FEMA, the national guard, and emergency services are using it for evacuations further up in the mountains, for people in the mountain communities who have been much more isolated than those of us in the town of Lyons. We will hear more in the upcoming days about estimates for when those of us with no flood damage can return to our homes, and when basic utilities will be back up in Lyons.

Caleb works for Grace Design, a small recording studio equipment company that is just on the eastern edge of Lyons, and there is a lot of mud to clean up on the first floor, but no major damages. We will be helping out there and checking in at the evacuation center for updates and to see how else we can help.

It’s hard to get a handle on the widespread affect of the flooding in Colorado. This time the news is about us… our communities. Thx for your thoughts and prayers. Tell everyone we are well.

An update on September 19, 2013:

We are very grateful, and at the same time emotionally tied to the plight of friends and neighbors. Each household was affected very uniquely in Lyons, and across the whole state.

Some interesting links and information:

We have a documentary filmmaker who lives in town who provided some footage and was interviewed himself for this piece on PBS:
Some Residents Find ‘Nothing Salvageable’ in Flood-Ravaged Colo …http://www.pbs.org/newshour/bb/weather-july-dec13-flooding_09-17/
We know just about everyone who was filmed.

Lyons Area Aerial footage from Saturday 9/14: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fvqKghIeabU
When the plane zooms out at about 1:02, you can see our neighborhood, high and dry.
At about 1:10, where there looks like a big lake, that is Planet Bluegrass, where several music festivals are held every year.

Here’s some data on the widespread flooding in Colorado as of early this week (it might be updated):
SCOPE OF DISASTER: 17 counties, 200 miles of Colorado (north to south), 2,380 square miles
Catastrophic flooding has affected 17 counties — an almost 200 mile stretch of Colorado from north to south and impacting at least 2,380 square miles — including: Boulder, El Paso, Larimer, Adams, Arapahoe, Broomfield, Clear Creek, Denver, Fremont, Jefferson, Logan, Morgan, Pueblo, Washington, Weld, Sedgewick, Otero and Archuelta counties.

Where you can donate to help recovery efforts:

I don’t still have the same thoughts when I wake up every morning now. I know we can’t go back to what it was like before the flood. It is part of our history that makes us who we are as individuals and a community today.

But still feel the same way as I described in my email a year ago. I recognize that each household was affected uniquely in Lyons. Today, I understand that to mean there is not a one-size-fits-all solution to flood recovery. I am still emotionally tied to the plight of friends and neighbors. Today and moving forward, that means I don’t want to give up searching for right tools to the address the multiple individual needs.


Amy Reinholds is a member of the Lyons Housing Recovery Task Force. She and her husband, Caleb Roberts, have lived in Lyons for 11 years and in the surrounding Lyons area since 1995. She is a technical writer for IBM and a former reporter and freelance writer for the Colorado Daily and the Boulder Daily Camera.