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Posts tagged big thompson flood

photo 3last week i drove from olympia to colorado. i needed to go back and see it all for myself. i was nervous as i drove into town and down 34. there were road blocks, but i drove around them, heading into the path of destruction. it hit me like a ton of bricks, seeing the debris piled on the side of the road, huge trees laying in the river. the only people using the road were workers and people whom obviously lived out that way. i started crying, my stomach was turning upside down. i was nervous, i was confused to see this place change.  when i pulled onto the property i knew what to expect from photos, but it just felt weird. i couldn’t cry anymore, i couldn’t feel much of anything but shock. it just was not the same place. the sun was shining so bright, you could feel the autumn change in the sun. it was a vast difference from the gloomy afternoons we had had all summer. it was as though everything was constipated and it exploded with massive amounts of rain, leaving behind destruction and sunny blue skies. the least mother nature could have done was to get a colonic if she was that backed up. just kidding, but not really.

i walked around the property taking it all in with little feeling- it seems in times of tragedy it feels so unreal to me that i dont know what to feel. the concord grapes were still there and you could smell there sweetness in the hot autumn sun. my neighbor had come out with a volunteer. i walked across the newly built dirt road to the other side of the  river and entered a war zone. or maybe a movie set. that is what it felt like. my neighbors houses were under sand. we could walk right on to the roof. cars buried in sand, propane tanks on tops of trees. dead fish tangled in the mess of debris, and random bits of houses just hanging out. laura has started digging their way out finding a small amount of their previous items.  they plan to take the roof off and dig their way down.

i have never witnessed a disaster first hand. i have come close twice now. ( i was suppose to fly to nyc the day after septemeber 11) and this is the first time i have seen anything like this in person. though i lost nothing, my memories feel bruised. after about 30 minutes i just couldn’t look at it anymore. later that night i kept wanting to go back, to make sure it was all real. i wasn’t sure where to put my memories. the sight of it all was overpowering my time there. i am sure it will for a while. for now, i seem to just be trucking along, making jokes about the tragedy, because it is the only way i know how to deal with it. i wasn’t even sure how to post this- i didn’t want to keep harping on it, but it seemed only fitting to tell the truth. i write this from nyc now, a whole different world from my cabin on the river. hanging out in hipsterville of williamsburg makes me realize how lucky i was to have that time there.

i also just want to say thank you for all your kind comments and for reading. thank you.
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photolast night i was told that my cabin on the river is gone, wiped out by the colorado flood. my neighbor said there is nothing there to even see anymore. my neighbors have lost everything. the neighborhood i have shared for months here on the blog is under water. the owner of the ranch has been in contact with my landlord, and i read on their facebook page that all the horses and critters are safe. so far, they have only lost one horse. the place i so warmly have talked about, the place where i healed my soul, is a disaster. even if she was always housing bugs and spiders. even if there were things that were not as convenient as city living, i loved living there.

i am in a state of shock, i can’t stop crying, i couldn’t sleep last night. in fact, i couldn’t really sleep all week. it has been such a strange 5 days. monday, i woke up with the sunshine and did some errands. i came home to find that wylie dog had gotten into the grapes i had harvested from the front yard. all i have heard lately is don’t give dogs grapes. i rushed him to the emergency vet unsure if he had consumed one, two, twenty, or none. the vet suggested he stay the night to be on fluids to flush anything out, as grapes can be deadly to dogs. i left the cabin on the way to the vet with a huge storm hanging over the mountains. by the time i left the vet it was pouring. that evening, though i was a mess about my boy, the neighbors were making me dinner. i decided the best thing to do was to go have a good time and get my mind off wylie. there were two couples that lived across the river from me and we often hung out drinking wine on their river beaches, my landlord too. needless to say they became my friends and my social outlet there on the river.

it wasn’t uncommon to discuss the flood that happened here in 1976. it killed over a 140 people, and there were signs all over the neighborhood cautioning flood- climb up, not out. my parents were the first to tell me about it. i never actually thought it could happen again. we are too sophisticated and smart now, right? i thought it was impossible. plus, how could it happen to us? looking back, the word flood came up too often.

to give you an idea of how bad this is. back in 1976 my neighbors knew the water was 4 feet deep in their house. today, the water was to the roof. thats at least over 9 feet. it swelled enough to take out my cabin which sat above the river at least 10 feet, yet it still swallowed it. my neighbor said my garden is still there, the tomatos still turning red.

we sat under a terrace monday night eating ribs, drinking wine, laughing and sharing stories. the rain was like a blanket, we actually kind of enjoyed it. the thunder started just as the sun was going down. it was such a fun evening and i was happy to have met these wonderful people, and i was sad i was leaving. that night, i couldn’t sleep. wylie wasn’t in bed with me, the movers were coming the next morning, and the rain danced on the roof. every time i woke up the sound of rain was soothing, yet something felt strange and eerie even then.

i got word in the morning that wylie would be fine and i could pick him up later that day. the clouds still hung low, it felt like a day in the PNW. the movers moved everything out and we went to the storage unit where again i heard the word flood. “what kind of flood insurance do you want to have for your storage unit?”

i picked up wylie and went back to the cabin to finish cleaning and packing the car. i had a junk removal service come pick up my couch, the driver mentioned how high the river was. i had noticed too how much it was rushing, but thought it was normal considering all the rain. i gave my new neighbor that had just moved in a few weeks prior a bunch of stuff from our fridge. we had recently had many conversations about our life experiences, why we both wanted to live in a cabin- i was bummed i wasn’t staying longer to get to know her. her house is gone now too, and i was told her cats were in the cabin.

that night i spent the night at my neighbors across the river. they made me dinner, a bass they caught on their most recent camping trip. we ate inside, because it was still raining. i was curious if this weather was normal. i asked laura to see her wedding album, i wanted to see their lives in a little more detail. that night i slept better, but the rain still fell. we woke up and had breakfast together. all week and even that morning laura kept trying to convince me to stay. i wanted too, but everything was settled so, i said my goodbyes i went back to the cabin to gather up the rest of my things and finish up the small details. the weather was so gloomy and wet. it didn’t seem or feel like the colorado i had come to know. i was annoyed to pack up the car in the rain, my sandals still have mud on them. i was annoyed that i had already mopped the kitchen floor 3 times. i got in the car and as i drove off i felt distant from this place. normally, i look at every detail, i get sentimental about every little thing. i look around to soak in all the memories…this time…i just left. i wanted to get out of that rain, even if i was driving to washington, where rain is normal. something didn’t feel quite right, but i didn’t even know it. i thought it was just sadness about leaving and i was simply avoiding my feelings.

i drove north on I-25 in heavy rain for over 2 hours. i contemplated turning around because i HATE driving in heavy rain. i get anxious. i kept going powering through. the rain finally let up a few hours outside yellowstone. i arrived to my little lodge and had a big glass of wine. the next morning i woke up early to hit the park. cell service was shotty, but about an hour in i got a text from my neighbor that they were in flood conditions. again, i took it lightly, thinking it was maybe a few inches of water. by that evening i had a conversation with laura and she explained it was bad. friday morning i woke up and couldn’t stop thinking about my neighbors, about how i wasn’t there. how did i miss this? by the time i arrived at my brothers in olympia, washington i got news that my neighbors lost everything, that my cabin was gone. it’s just gone. The water is up to the roof on both my neighbors houses. The river is 5 times wider.

i do not think luck is something you have, i think it is something that just happens. i don’t believe in fate really, i don’t even believe in god, as an individual being anyway. because why would god save me and not the others ?it was pure quincidance. i missed the start of the flood by 24hours. just 24 hours. i was paying rent until the 15th, and since i had made that arrangement, i still wanted to move out before for some reason. i was a bit anxious to get going, even if i was sad to leave. i had decided to have the movers come on the 10th because 1. i was superstitious about moving on on september 11th 2. i wanted to make it to my brother’s by friday to spend the weekend there. there are so many what if’s. what if i had extended the lease another 6 months? what if i had stayed until the 15th? what if i had stayed till the end of the month. back in beginning of august, i would have done so in a heart beat, but as time went on and i started packing, i wanted to just rip the band aid off.

i put my stuff in storage and it had me thinking lately about what all our stuff is. possessions. what not. are they necessary for our happiness? i was glad to be rid of it all for a bit. to live simply. i think that is strange i was thinking this way now. some stuff is just stuff, but some of it precious memories. all of it money and time. it is not something anyone can take lightly and i certainly dont anymore. I admit i have tried to imagine if i had still been there, if i had to evacuate, what i would take. how would i be feeling now, how would i handle it? i guess now i know my decision was the right one. either way i would have no place to live.

i can’t completely explain my emotions right now. i am sad, i am in shock, my eyes hurt from crying. my heart breaks for my friends and neighborhood. it is just all gone. all gone. it is a surreal feeling. there are moments when i know i am fine, everything is ok. there are moments i just want to cry again in shock of the reality of how close i came to being there, how my friends have to start there lives over. how the road up to estes park is pretty much gone and the death toll may continue to rise. everything feels like a different world now, that little piece of heaven for me- it feels like a dream. the beginning and the end. as if i was never there.

please keep all the people of colorado devastated by this flood in your thoughts.

Ribbet collagethe photo on the right is looking over the bridge to my neighbors. well, there once was a bridge there under that pile.

the second photo is an arial view of the property and the dam. that big swell is where my cabin and the neighbors once were.

 

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I just received these photos last night. One is my garden. The other cabin sat where the river now is. The other photo is of my parking spot. My cabin was just to the left of the spot and those bushes.