"Oh, no, don't let the rain come down"
Technology started buzzing and beeping with flood warnings shortly after midnight the morning of September 12, 2013. Though it was raining, and had been for many days prior to this, the imminent danger was not fully understood. Around 1:30am, Don walked to the confluence of the Big Thompson River and Fall River. The rivers were raging, yet they appeared to be well-contained within their banks. Employees at the store began removing low-laying merchandise from the backroom, just in case the river flooded. After putting the store to bed, we all went home prepared to do business as usual the following day.
There was nothing "usual" about Thursday, September 12th. By 8am, the river had swelled and began rushing over its banks behind the store. Though this was a surprise, the bigger surprise came once we entered the store. Upon opening the door, a distinctly squalid odor filled the air and a looming feeling of trouble fell upon us. Our pace quickened to the front door as we saw water streaming under and through the front doors. Immediately, sand bags were acquired and further preparations were made. All of the merchandise on the lower level was transported upstairs. By 11am, Elkhorn Avenue had become a furious river rolling and crashing through our beloved town. The Big Thompson behind the store was thundering and clamoring eastward. The store was cradled in between two rivers, one in front and the other in back. And all the while, the rain came down.
As the flood waters rose, it became increasingly dangerous to stay at the store. The river ran so swiftly down Elkhorn Avenue, it was impossible to pass on foot. The parking lot next to the store had become a small lake and the driveway was filling fast. The water depth was too high to attempt driving out. A fire truck was secured and barreled through the rushing waters to come to our rescue. Six Brownfield's members were evacuated from the store via the Estes Park Fire Truck.
The rains continued to fall upon the land. Over 10 inches of rain saturated the Estes Park area in roughly 48 hours. This was equivalent to 120 inches of snow. The mighty Big Thompson was almost deafening as it ran at 5,280 cfps and in some places it crested over 10 feet above flood stage. The water flow was higher and faster than during the flood of 1976. Much of Northern Colorado was affected by this deluge. "The mammoth disaster scene is 4,500 square miles of the front range, a swath the size of Connecticut," says the LA Times.
Friday came and the murmurs pervaded through the air, "Please let the rain stop." The gray sky reflected the sadness of the people of Estes as they looked upon the massive destruction which descended upon our mountain paradise. Yet, a resilience echoed through this tough little town, even as we mourned the temporary loss of such beauty. A confident expectation that we would recover reverberated through the chatter of Facebook and the conversations around town. We shall see you soon...
Flood of 1982
Flood of 2013