I've been in Boulder for 17 years and I've never seen anything like this. We basically live in a high desert environment. Every summer we brace for fires. Tim and I have never evacuated for fires, although twice we've packed up our basic belongings, ready to jump in the car and go. In the winters, we've had some crazy snowstorms. A few years ago we were socked in all winter; people were snowboarding down our street! And as a general rule, we are accustomed to high winds. I always say that if we lived near the ocean, our winds would be akin to typhoons.
In other words, we have our fair share of natural disasters and extreme weather. So when it started raining early in the week, it was almost a novelty. Since the last few summers have been so hot and dry, this was a nice change. Yay! Rain in Boulder! Our grass may actually stay green this year!
But then the rain kept coming.
The great thing about Boulder is that it has incredible access to gorgeous canyons for cycling, hiking, climbing and all sorts of outdoor activities. Most of these canyons have beautiful rivers snaking along the road, fed by lakes and dams at the top of the mountains. We don't usually think about the dams and lakes – in fact, the only time I ever think about them is to complain that I can't swim in them!
Right now those dams and lakes are on everyone's minds. Every river along the Front Range of the Rocky Mountains has either overflowed or is about to do so. There is a small creek by our house. It is now a raging river, as wide as 3 car lanes. Most streets in Boulder are closed. Most businesses are closed. Basements are not only flooding, the water is reaching the ceiling. People are losing their belongings, their pets and their land. If the rain keeps coming, the dams are in danger of breaking. Depending on where the dams are, they could take out towns if they burst.
Lyons is getting hit really hard. Tim and I lived there for 5 years. It's the coolest little town of 2000, about 20 minutes from Boulder; home of Oskar Blues beer, the Rocky Mountain Bluegrass festivals and more. Come on - it's where Skirt Sports was founded in our basement! Obviously very important heritage! Due to the flooding, Lyons has been isolated to the extent that the National Guard is evacuating all residents. Sounds like the town may have to rebuild. This is big time.
I grew up in the Midwest. We got tons of rain. I was a lifeguard in the summer and it was basically guaranteed that my shifts would be canceled at least twice a week due to lightning. I remember how the sky, no wait - not just the sky, but the entire world - would literally turn green just before a huge storm cell or tornado would appear. The calm before the storm is a very real phenomenon. Then the sky would burst, and when it was over, the ground would steam. I have a vivid memory of going down to the basement during a tornado and watching the water pour in from the window wells. As scary as it was, this was not unusual in the Midwest. It is however, unusual in Colorado.
I have often felt that all beautiful places in the world have some sort of natural disaster tendency. Pick your poison. Hawaii has volcanoes. California has earthquakes. Florida has hurricanes. Every exotic island has tropical storms, mudslides and tsunami threats. Some places even rain frogs.
Colorado has forest fires. They suck and they're brutal, but we know fires are a threat. Apparently now we also have floods. Let's just hope this is truly a once-in-500-years occurrence.