Monday, October 21, 2013

Colorado floods: A month later, mountain towns 'spooky' and deserted

Tony Dokoupil in NBC News: Flanked by a boom mic and an American flag, Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper praised his state for rebounding after last month’s historic flood. “You can’t help but be inspired,” he told the Loveland Chamber of Commerce this week, celebrating a “spirit of recovery” that has opened most roads and emptied every temporary shelter.

But while the bigger cities of central Colorado — from Boulder to Loveland to Fort Collins — are bustling again, at least two once-gleaming villages in the foothills are virtual ghost towns, isolated by gaps in the asphalt and rivers that undid a century of civilization in a week of heavy rain. In Glen Haven, a 400-person jewel box on the road to Rocky Mountain National Park, an estimated 80 percent of the homes are empty and every business downtown is closed or totally gone — swept seven miles into the town of Drake, a thousand-person tourist draw that’s also now obliterated and empty except for a handful of holdouts who refused to be evacuated. 

“We saw the whole town kind of explode,” said Bob Smallwood, Glen Haven’s assistant fire chief, and one of ten people left in a 200-home neighborhood called The Retreat.

The water that cascaded out of the Rockies last month ripped through 24 counties, killing nine people and dampening 2,500 square miles in the heart of Colorado. But the communities of Glen Haven and Drake may be the most devastated, deserted areas left — as well as the most at risk of becoming genuine ghost towns before the “spirit of recovery” finds them too.

A month after the flood a Ford Bronco and other debris remain piled against the Town Hall, which slid 20 feet off its foundation into the Glen Haven General Store. Six of the seven buildings downtown have been totaled. “There’s been a lot of talk and a lot of meetings but not much action,” said Steve Childs, owner of the Glen Haven General Store, which was knocked sideways in the flood by a Ford Bronco and the remnants of Town Hall...

Jamestown, Colorado, on September 15 after the 2013 floods, FEMA photo

No comments: