When employees in flood-ravaged northern Colorado communities needed help, three City of Lone Tree staff members answered the call.
They were among volunteers from around the state who are on call in such emergencies, including building inspectors, public information officers and others.
Lone Tree’s chief building inspector Jim Beaver, chief building official Matt Archer and community outreach coordinator Kristen Knoll helped their counterparts in Boulder and Weld Counties navigate the demands of a natural disaster.
Archer, part of a statewide disaster mitigation committee, rearranged his schedule to spend Sept. 20 in Boulder inspecting flooded structures. The goal was to ensure the buildings’ safety so residents ideally could stay in or return to their homes. About 100 volunteers joined him.
“What would take a smaller city months to do we’re able to do in a matter of days,” Archer said.
Beaver, meanwhile, spent three days in Estes Park.
The extent of the problems Archer saw was stunning.
“There’s just so much damage,” he said
While structural damage was minimal in Boulder, he saw mass flooding in basements from rainwater and backed-up sewers.
“I bet 90 percent or more of those people do not have flood insurance because they didn’t need it,” Archer said. “But now there’s tens of thousands of dollars of damage in their house.”
In one area, Archer said damage primarily was caused by appliances cascading downstream.
“The water went right through a 16-plex condo and washed out the bottom six units,” he said. “A wall of water five to six feet deep picked up all the refrigerators and dishwashers, and pushed them right out the front doors and right down the block. A lot of the damage was just from (those) appliances being carried by the floodwaters, banging up buildings. That was a very unique, odd situation.”
In Evans, Knoll assembled from Sept. 20-23 with a group of public information officers. The city hired a communications consultant, but needed much more help to get information to residents, field media calls and coordinate community meetings.
“The biggest issue in Evans was that their levee broke upstream from their water treatment plant,” Knoll said. “It flooded several communities, including two trailer park communities. So those were completely destroyed. And then it took out power to the water treatment plant. They couldn’t even get to the treatment plan because the roads were washed away.”
About 2,000 residents were without water for eight days, Knoll said, and under a no-flush order. Community groups stepped up to provide meals, do laundry and offer places to stay.
“I was really impressed with how the community came together, with the number of calls we kept getting about, ‘How can I help?” It was almost overwhelming the amount of people that wanted to give back.”
Both Archer and Knoll said they’d answer another such call for help without hesitation.
“It’s kinda like a pay-it-forward type of thing,” Archer said. “You just really hope it absolutely never happens in your community, but these folks will be there if you need them. I’m just grateful we were able to help.”