Like most residents of Jamestown, Colorado, my husband and I had little time to escape the rising floodwaters that ravaged the area in the early morning hours of September 12th. Though we live closer to the mountain community of Gold Hill, Jamestown is our address. Located one canyon south, our home and property have been spared the total devastation that befell the town site of Jamestown, though we got hammered nonetheless.
My husband, Kort, and I are both artists. We have created a simple life for ourselves in these foothills Northwest of Boulder, piecing together a modest income from our talents; Kort as a multi-instrumentalist singer/songwriter and I as a jewelry designer. We have chosen this location for many reasons, but mainly because its natural beauty and unique community enhance our lives, creatively inspiring us to enhance the lives of others.
I had been monitoring Lefthand Creek, which flows through our property, all day. It was high, but I had seen it higher and was not overly concerned. However, when Kort came home late Wednesday evening after playing a gig at a local brewery, we started to become concerned. He noticed a lot of boulders had slid down the canyon walls onto the road, making his rainy, night drive home a hazardous obstacle course. At that time, Lefthand Creek was higher than I had ever seen it, and the rain was relentless. We could hear the ominous sound of large boulders crushing against each other in the churning, rising creek. We started to realize the severity of the situation with the tumultuous force of nature rushing by our house only 30ft from our front door.
I checked the online status updates of our friends and neighbors to see if they had anything to share about what was happening around us, the rain still relentless. I started gathering together a few items in case we needed to evacuate; the cat carriers, dog leashes, food, a few days’ worth of clothing, computer, wallet, insurance policy, my grandmother’s ring, some sentimental photos, Kort’s guitars. The possibility of evacuating, though scary, was not something completely unfamiliar, as we had to do just that three years earlier, almost to the date, when the devastating 4 Mile Canyon Fire ripped through the area. That was a nerve-wracking eleven days of not knowing if our home would survive the flames, but it had… Anyway, that is another story.
A little after midnight, I learned that a mandatory evacuation had been issued for Jamestown and that there had already been an unfortunate death as a result of the flash flooding, just two miles away as the crow flies. Kort and I ran outside with a flashlight, the sound of the roaring creek and cold, pounding rain all around us, and saw that the creek had risen above the lower part of our road, making the intersection and two of the three possible routes out of here impassable. After gathering together our three dogs, two cats, and a few belongings, I quickly threw them into our small camper at 2 am, and followed Kort in my car up the only remaining route out of here, the steepest county road in the country. The camper is not made to drive such roads in the first place, but especially while it was washing out all around us. Once again, we evacuated our home not knowing if we would ever see it again. We had each other, our beloved pets, and a few of our belongings.
The following days, weeks, and months have been a Rollercoaster, Tilt-a-Whirl, and Turbo Drop of emotions. For the first few weeks, we (and our two cats and three dogs) lived in our small, very cramped camper. The only way to check on our property involved a steep hike, as all three roads to it had been washed away. We did this several times a day to assess the damages and to rescue a few more musical instruments and/or jewelry supplies each time, carrying them out on our backs. Kort has been able to continue playing gigs, bringing a small sense of normalcy back to our daily lives. Without power or phone, booking future gigs has been a challenge for him. As far as tangible, material items go, we have faired pretty well, relatively speaking, and yet have a daunting amount of recovery work ahead of us. Miraculously, our house is essentially fine, though our property, our well, and my studio have taken a beating. My studio is salvageable and its contents are replaceable. The repairs are many and expensive. It is my means of self-employment and it has been temporarily interrupted.
While most of Boulder has moved on from what has been deemed The Thousand Year Flood, many of us in the foothills are still reeling. Who knew we would get a year’s worth of rain in four days? The folks of Jamestown, Salina, Estes Park, and Lyons have been hit hard by the rushing floodwaters and continue to be affected by the resulting mudslides, road washouts, toxic mold, contaminated well water, post-traumatic stress, and risen water tables. People have been left homeless and/or jobless. People have died. Thankfully, it hasn’t taken long for communities far and wide to rally together and help those of us in dealing with the damages of this natural disaster. They’ve joined together to volunteer, donate, and fund raise. The experience has been traumatic. How we rebuild, the strength of the local economy, and the resilience of our communities have yet to be determined. There are so many unknowns. Surprisingly, many of us feel blessed, which I think is a good sign of hope and positive recovery. The support of friends, family, and strangers has been overwhelming and inspirational.
Thanks to those of you who’ve checked in, offered help, and sent care packages. We hope to be back to our regularly scheduled program soon!
Amy Fortunato (Boss Lady)