September 19, 2013

The Rains Came Down

The last 3 weeks have been a blur - first a blur of craziness as my garden finally began ripening in the overdue heat wave we had - I was harvesting and preserving as fast as I possibly could, as well as working and getting into the swing of things with school and working.  Second was the blur of disbelief and shock as last Monday we had a crazy cloudburst - we had 2 inches of rain in 20 minutes.  Not normally a horribly bad thing, most times around this part of the year, water levels are low and we would be ok to have that much rain fall...but with so many areas being recovering from the forest fires we had there was nothing to collect the water - the ground and rivers could only hold so much...water levels rose, but we all breathed a little sigh of relief - it was, after all, only a 20 minute storm that blew through...

Then Tuesday came, and it was cloudy and gloomy and kind of misty...and then the skies opened up again...only 1/4" of rain over several hours...Wednesday dawned, cloudy, gray, heavy air...you could just feel something waiting to be unleashed...and Wednesday night, as my kids were walking to the truck to come home from swim lessons, the skies opened up again...and didn't close for 48 hours...

We're talking the kind of rain we see when we visit MIL and FIL in the Pacific NW - sheets of rain, literally just pouring rain...for 2 days straight...thunder, lightning, more rain...

Thursday morning we awoke to discover school had been cancelled due to flood concerns.

One thing you must understand about Colorado - we are a semi-arid State - we don't get days and days of moisture like that.  We may get snow, but it melts slowly and fills our lakes, rivers, and reservoirs...

I sent BB to work (he agreed, it was just some rain, no worries)...and then the Emergency Alerts started rolling in  - sirens, warnings on my phone, warnings on the radio and TV...I called him and said come home.  That was 10am.  At 1:30 he called me to tell me all roads to our house were closed.  Not because our house was in the flood zone, neither his office...but because 2 rivers go through my town that cut us in half North and South...he was stuck at the office.

Thankfully, we never lost power, the office never lost power...but the skies were literally black with clouds and the rain never stopped - it lessened slightly and then would pour again...

My kids played happily in our basement, enjoying a day off from school, Legos, drawing, coloring, playing house, building blanket forts...and meanwhile, BB and I were texting like fiends to stay in contact with one another, I was filling our camping water containers just in case...

Those three words struck a fear in my I've only felt once before...just in case...just in case what??? Just in case a dam broke and our water treatment facility was under water?  Just in case our power went out and we couldn't boil water?  Just in case...just in case...

Normally, the thought of being on my own with the kids isn't fear-inducing...but that's because I know BB is coming home at the end of it...whether it be hours or days, the chance of something truly happening to him is pretty slim...but suddenly, we were separated by water that was not getting lower...it was spreading.  Rapidly...without rhyme or reason...not following the banks it had followed since 1965, the last time our rivers flooded...homes on streets blocks from my childhood home were under water...inches or feet made no difference...people I knew were evacuating because of the danger...

I think I walked through Thursday with one eye glued to the TV and the other on my phone screen...not really processing anything but just sort of going through the motions.

I did load up the kids and we headed to the grocery to stock up on essentials to get us through the weekend.

We were fine - our streets were wet, yes, but no sign of rising water...and then the images started flooding my FB feed along with people sharing warnings, asking for prayers...our local stations were constant broadcasts of the situations...there was no where to turn to get away from it at all...

BB's company paid for a hotel room so he was safe and dry...until about 3am when a new evacuation order went out for neighborhoods just on the other side of the street from his office, slightly downhill from his hotel...

It was a long night...finally Friday dawned...gray and rainy still...warnings blaring, new stories of dams compromised, water treatment plants in the surrounding areas compromised, my Church set up as an evacuation station...refugees streaming in, wet, bedraggled, dazed, in shock...calls for donations of blankets, bedding, food, clothing, toiletries, shoes, power strips, towels...

We waited with bated breath, after BB arrived safely home, minutes before another deluge and another wall of water 20 feet wide coming down the canyon just 15 miles west of my town closed the road he took to get to us...

We spent the weekend, looking at the sky, praying, wondering when it would stop, or if we'd get washed away...someone posted that their kids remembered the story of Noah and God's promise to never again flood the whole earth, and all I could think was "this is just Colorado...there's a lot of water yet to flood the earth...is He planning on washing away Colorado in this flood?!?"

Saturday, finally Saturday, it stopped raining long enough for folks to think about going home to see just what had occurred, what was left...and they lifted some evacuation orders...people flooded the stores for supplies - ice, water, milk, paper goods, cleaning supplies...basic things like propane and batteries...one woman had her cart piled with ice cream and frozen pizzas...

And Sunday morning, we went from sunny skies to black skies and pouring rain in a matter of minutes...and new evacuation orders were given...new panic, new worries...

Monday dawned clear, sunny, and we began to see just what had happened...

While we were at the North end of town, on the hill, helping those who've lost so much, the South end of my town was reeling...feet of water in stores, an entire mobile home park wiped out, hundreds of people with nowhere to go, only a handful with flood insurance to assist...

Our schools were cancelled until this morning.  I spent Monday with my kids, working through activity books of math, spelling, reading...anything to be "normal"...Tuesday I went to work and watched hundreds of people stand along a concrete sidewalk in the hot sun (thank you Lord for the beautiful skies and clear days of sunshine to help dry up the water!) to get an access pass to be allowed back into their town up the road to see what was left...how much they had to clean up, and what could be salvaged.  Not quite cheerful, but able to smile and chat and be kind to one another...I must have poured a hundred cups of coffee that day...countless smiles and "what can I get for you"s...countless "We're praying for you" and "we're just so glad we can help out" "you're welcome"...knowing that my heart was breaking - these folks have NOTHING but piles of mud and debris and they were so grateful that we opened our building to them and were helping out...

Since then, I've been blessed to witness so many stories of God's amazing provision...

One man, in my bookstore yesterday, talking with his wife, almost dropped his phone when he found out that NOTHING in their house was wet...their garage was under 6 feet of water, but because of the way their home was built on the hillside, their house, all their furniture, clothing, memories, treasures, were FINE...and he had just emptied his garage of all his tools because he was going to be insulating and rewiring anyway...God's miraculous timing for this man means he can now go home to his town and his house and use his tools and provisions and skills to help his neighbors rebuild...his work crew are all accounted for, his work vehicles were all on site or in shops outside the danger zone - so he's got trucks and heavy equipment...

One woman, separated from her husband and 2 of their 5 kids...she with the baby and oldest and a random assortment of items from their home...finally reunited with her husband to find that of all the things they'd selected, she'd picked half of what was needed, and he had the other half...they had both their vehicles, all their important papers, photo albums and his grandmother's prize hand-pieced, hand-quilted double Irish Wedding Ring quilt...other things - he had the external hard drive with ALL their pictures and financial records, she had the power cord for it...

One young man who'd been so busy helping his neighbors get their things out of their houses and into vehicles hadn't managed to get any of his own things out found his next door neighbor yesterday, had moved all his items into their 40 foot trailer and parked it above his property where it was sitting, dry and unscathed, waiting for him to return home...

Restaurants donating food to evaucees - feeding at least 1000 people meals...

National Guard pitching in to clean the Church building, recruiting evacuees to give them a sense of purpose - one of whom had been presented to our staff as "potentially suicidal" now has a job at the Church for the foreseeable future, and a place to live in town.  He's 70 and alone...no money to rebuild...and now, not even valuable property to sell to start over...

The list goes on and on...

The weirdest thing is sitting here today, blue skies, warm weather...and driving around seeing only piles of tree branches, hay bales, and heaps of mud...

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