I would like to preface this post with the following: I realize that many, many people have had it a lot worse than me and I consider myself very fortunate, and lucky, that for the most part, I was spared. This is just my personal experience and I hope that everyone that was affected by this flood is safe and that despite everything, you can find the silver lining. Like, hey, new carpet!
I never liked energy drinks. In fact, I pretty much turned up my nose at them since the dawn of Red Bull and vodkas. At around 1pm, right as soon as lunch ends, I find myself drawn to the work fridge where my sugar free Red Bull is sitting in the door. I have absolutely no energy these days, thanks in part to constant travel between work, my apartment, a different friend’s couch in a different city most every night, with absolutely no alone time to speak of. I’m constantly “on”, and have been for two weeks now. I know my introverted friends are cringing reading this and being part introvert, it’s taking a massive toll on me.
My job entails me constantly being friendly, putting a smile on my face, creating endless amounts of small talk and dealing with people for eight or nine hours a day. My favorite part of the day these days is at five or six pm–plugging in a good podcast, taking an hour and a half run and then coming home and watching mindless television on my sofa, or reading my book in my hammock. Fairly solo activities. Very relaxing, very grounding.
It started Wednesday, September 11th. It had been raining since Monday night. I remember my excitement Monday as we had our first true rainy night in…well…years. When you live in Colorado you savor these rainy, gray days. And we had a couple in a row. By Wednesday I was missing the sun and I realized that maybe owning a rain jacket or an umbrella might have been a good idea. I didn’t think anything of the rain, aside from how it was interfering with my half marathon training. I remember standing at my back door, in my running clothes, watching what had become a torrential downpour, wondering how smart running would be at this point. Even so, at 9pm everyone was still thankful for the drought-quenching rain that we so desperately needed.
I went to bed in my garden level bedroom with the sound of the emergency sirens going off telling people to stay away from the Boulder Creek Path, it was starting to flood. People were starting to turn from thankful to PLEASE STOP RAINING. I checked my backyard and at 11pm, there was no water pooling in the backyard so I sent a quick text to my roommate saying that all was fine up in North Boulder and not to worry. It was an eerie feeling knowing that parts of lower Boulder were starting to flood. I fell asleep around 11, thinking that the rain would end soon, as it always does in Boulder.
Around 12:30am I woke up again, as the insomniac that I am is prone to do. I sat listening to the pouring rain and noticed a distinct difference from when I was falling asleep: there was sloshing. It sounded like a lake was in my backyard. So I got up, turned on the flashlight app on my iPhone and looked out the window. I think the freakout was immediate and absolute. Where there once was no water in my backyard, not even a puddle, there was water up to my window sill. I sent another quick, urgent text to my roommate telling her that the backyard had started taking on water at a rapid rate–what did she want me to move upstairs? We were going to flood.
I started taking stuff down off the ledge that runs the perimeter of my bedroom, thinking that the water was going to come in through the window. At about 1:30am, or 2, my roommate arrives home and we realize something: there’s no more water in the backyard. Well, where is it? It didn’t take us long to figure that out.
Suddenly Abby’s floor is soaking wet.
Mine was starting to get wet too, our feet were leaving wet footprints in our wake as we started focusing our attention not on the ledges anymore, but on what was on the ground. Emergency sirens, usually followed by “THIS IS A TEST,” were raging around the neighborhood, around all of Boulder and Boulder’s emergency management twitter feed was tweeting in all CAPS telling resident of Four Mile Canyon TO GET OUT IMMEDIATELY. My twitter feed was full of friends tweeting about flooding downtown, of their situations and of all the hell that had just opened up all over Boulder. Even with all that, even with the wet floors, I don’t think I realized just how bad it was.
It was an exhausting night with very little sleep. At one point we did fall asleep and Abby and I both admitted the next morning that we fully expected that we would wake up and the rain would be gone and the water inside the apartment would be gone. I was truly shocked when I got out of bed to the text from my boss telling me to cancel all our patients and not to come in, and SPLASH. I was in water. I let a few curses fly and stumbled upstairs and out my front door where I heard people talking. A guy with a van was starting to drag a large blue hose into my neighbor’s apartment. My neighbors stood in our courtyard chatting about how bad they had it and they took a tour of my apartment.
We spent the next few hours moving everything else upstairs and bonding with our neighbors. Doors were left open, an open invitation for people to wander between, though most stayed in their own problem apartments and dealt with what was going on there. I arranged to head out of town that night since the smell had gone from distasteful to disgusting, wet dog very quickly. Plus you could do a very nice rendition of Singing in the Rain on our first floor, complete with splashing.
It kept on raining. And raining. And raining some more. I was seeing pictures and video from around town. I had never seen so much water in my life. Even after two pumpings of the apartment, my roommate still came home to two fans creating waves in four inches of standing water.
The drive out of Boulder was terrifying. It was pouring, there were raging rivers down the roads and our highway out of town had lakes of standing water that you had to drive through. My heart was racing the entire time and I regretted my decision to leave Boulder. But once I crested the hill over to Louisville it was like entering another world. One of bright light, no rain and no standing water. It was absolutely crazy to me how contained Boulder’s hell was. Driving back to Boulder, in a break from the rain, was also eerie driving on roads that were the highest point and the rest just water as far as you could see.
The next few days are a blur. I crashed at friends houses, I stopped by my apartment to check out the ripped up carpet, and eat the perishables in my fridge. The one sunny couple hours on Saturday I walked around my neighborhood and assessed the damage, talked to neighbors I’d never seen before and heard their stories of exploding toilets and feet of water in their basements.
I drove and I drove and I was social and hung out and I wanted to scream at the top of my lungs. I wanted to just sit on my sofa and hang out and do nothing and I couldn’t. Tuesday night at 9pm, the night before I left for NYC at 4:30am, I got a call saying they’re tearing out our drywall. Everything needs to be out of the rooms by the morning. Oh, and sorry for the last minute notice. I landed in New York to an email saying we would be displaced from our apartments for six or more weeks. My stress levels needless to say, have been pretty high and I have taken to sleep walking, when I do sleep.
Every conversation revolves around the flood small talk: were you affected, how long are you out of your place, we have to consider ourselves lucky–it could have been a lot worse.
Yes, it definitely could have. I have heard stories of a guy who was in his house when the flash flood hit and was swept out his door and only survived because he managed to grab a tree and climb up it. I’ve seen the footage from Lyons or Jamestown where entire towns have been cut off because the roads were just washed away. I witnessed the giant national guard helicopters flying endlessly overhead as they brought much needed help to those stranded. My heart just kept breaking the more destruction I saw, and it also expanded with how great of a community this is. People have been wonderful to each other, and to me. People have opened their homes to me, have let me crash in their spare rooms and have put up with what I’m guessing is a growing grouch presiding in my body.
I’m sitting at my friend Kate’s in Denver while she is out of town and this first night of alone time where I have nothing more to do than drink pumpkin beer (Elysian’s Night Owl), discover new music on Spotify (Hey Marseilles and Stars) and write a blog post. It’s beyond luxurious and wonderful and I fully intend to be in bed by 9:30 tonight after a long, hot shower.
Thank you to everyone who has reached out, who has offered me a spot in their dry apartments and who has helped me keep a hold on my sanity. I am feeling incredibly lucky and am thankful that I am an insomniac and woke up with just enough time to realize that we were going to flood. I could have lost more than just a $20 Ikea rug and a few pillows and a pile of what was going to be donation clothing. I could have had feet of mud instead of inches of clear water. I could have had my toilet explode. I could have lost my entire house in a mud slide. There’s so much to be thankful for. That doesn’t mean I’m not stressed out that I’ll be out of my apartment for six weeks, that it’s not hard to see the silver lining of new carpet/walls/paint job, that despite being an extrovert I need my alone time and it’s been a grueling two weeks of being social. On the bright side, I did complete a half marathon in the middle of a flash flood warning.
So I turn to red bulls to wake me up during the day when all I want to do is sleep off the stress of it all and stalk Airbnb to see what vacation rentals in Boulder go for to see if I can afford to rent out my place for a couple weekends a month so I don’t have to find a new roommate come November when mine moves out.
My mother asked me a few days after the flooding if I still wanted to stay in Colorado, despite the fires, despite the floods. I’ve spent the past summer truly settling in and making Boulder and Colorado my home and right now? I couldn’t imagine living anywhere else. I love my little home.
Keep those smiles shining, Boulder. I don’t doubt that we will pick ourselves back up again and be better than ever.
For more images from around Boulder, click here.