September 13, 2013

Drowning in Boulder.

Nothing gives you perspective quite like a natural disaster.

This is Boulder, Colorado. We are dry people.

We are seasoned to withstand drought conditions. We are sun-addicted and speak of overcast conditions as if they were a novelty. (I would even dare to call them a luxury if it weren’t so damn hard to be productive on those days.)

I am always thirsty. I apply lotion as if it were a compulsion and over-oil everything I put in my mouth.

My eyes are accustomed to a landscape that is comprised of  variations of tan and brown and I wrestle with a low grade of guilt during the summer months due to the fact that we have to water our grass. (The dead patches will tell you that we don’t even water that often.) Our flowers harbor a permanent state of crispiness and I’ve accepted that.  I figure it’s a well-measured trade for having 300 sunny days a year.

When it rains, we talk about nothing else.

In line at the grocery: Quite a day we’re having!

During the drop-off at school: The maple in my yard is thrilled!

At the dog park: It took me a half hour to dig this umbrella out of the garage!

In the eleven years that I’ve lived here, in Colorado, the rain has passed quickly enough—usually in a day or two—for the conversation to move fluidly to something else.

This time: not so.

It’s not stopping.

We are used to working with the elements. We can do rain. We are well acquainted with wind and with the subsequent summer fires.

But a flood? I’m afraid that is a different story.

Our house has flooded exactly three times since we moved here in 2007, and this is the first that was actually caused by mother nature:

  1. The unforgettable sewage back-up of 2010. But that was a black-water flood. Guess what that means.
  2. The almost-flood of 2011 when the ditch near our house almost-flooded nearly every house on our block.
  3. Last night.

When I got home from work last night, well after dark, I caught sight of a few random tubes strewn mindlessly on the front porch, and I had a sense that something was off. I was dripping and drenched from the quick jaunt to and from my car. I had visions of drying off, crawling into bed and watching a Mad Men with Jesse. The fans running downstairs were my first indication that things were not to go as planned.

Apparently, while I was at work, there was a torrential downpour and water started pouring in the window well in our basement.

Jesse called over our neighbor—superman Ryan who has saved our asses countless times—and they devised a tubing system in the likes of something that would have won a ribbon at a science fair. A combination of tubes and plastic channeled water away from the window well and from the valleys in the soil by our house that were beyond water-logged after a few days of continuous rain.

The carpet downstairs was drenched.

We had barely a moment of shit, this is a bummer when the news from the rest of Boulder County made its way to us. Perspective ensued.

By midnight, The National Weather Service warned of a “life-threatening situation” in an emergency message. About seven inches of rain had fallen throughout the city, and the rain was expected to continue for days.

We live just outside of Boulder, in Louisville, on slightly higher ground. We have wet basements, flooded yards and less news coverage. But we are not immune to the fact that Boulder County is drowning.

From NBC news:

Water reached as high as first-floor windows in some parts of Boulder, a police and fire spokeswoman said. Dive teams were dispatched after cars were seen floating.

By this morning, the picture of the flood got bleaker. Homes collapsed, at least three died, a major highway buckled and other highways were shut down. Schools closed (including the University).

And even now as I write this, the rain continues to fall.

Below is a video taken by Jesse this evening, nearly 24 hours after our basement flood. The thrashing river you see is supposed to be a field.

I adore the rain. I don’t mind getting my clothes wet. I feel a sense of job-well-done when my garden is well watered.  But, after 60+ hours and no end in sight, the water I always feel some kind of longing for has utterly overstayed it’s welcome.

Enough is enough.


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Ed: Catherine Monkman

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