Thursday, September 19, 2013

Torrential Aftermath: Garbage

Ah, those things we take for granted!

Like trash collection.

I don't think I have ever been as happy to see a garbage truck as I was this morning. The local sanitation service missed its usual pickup last week. Officially the company's vehicles were unable to run their routes in the aftermath of the torrential rains and resulting floods this region experienced last week.

We're still recovering from all that, here in Colorado. We will be for months to come.

But the garbage truck came this morning.

As I have noted here before, we escaped the worst of this natural disaster in my town. We're about six miles east of Boulder, as the crow flies, and 10-12 miles south of Longmont and Lyons, where the worst of it is.

So if all we have to fret about is a few bags of garbage piling up in the garage, well – boo-hoo-hoo for us, yuhknow?

Not too far from here people are more concerned about insurance claims, and FEMA claims, and mucking out flooded homes and businesses.

And then there are genuine hazards like water contaminated by raw sewage. I haven't heard much about that, but it's always a possibility.

An item in this morning's paper said that ordinarily, the local wastewater treatment facility handles about 12 million gallons of sewage a day. That's up to about 50 million a day since this madness began last week. So the system is strained, far beyond its capacity. "At this point, it's the number one priority," said one city official. "We're working on it 24/7." But, he added, the massive inundation has to run its course.

So we're keeping things in perspective. But it's nice to reduce the pile of garbage.

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Torrential: More Aftermath

On September 17th – yesterday, as I write this – I attempted to ride my bike up to Longmont, Colorado, about 10-12 miles away.

Longmont is among the areas hardest-hit by the recent floods we've had here along the front range of the Rocky Mountains. But I was unable to get there because of a closed road.

There are still many closed roads, due to flooding and weakened infrastructure.

And yet I ignored the "Road Closure" sign, rolling easily through a gap between the barricades. I knew I would not get far. This is a low-lying area with a stream running through it, a stream almost certainly far over its banks. But I thought it might make an interesting photo.

Within a few minutes I saw an approaching helicopter. An even better photo than high water! It was coming in for a landing near the stream.

Seconds after taking this picture, however, an angry cop confronted me. "You live back here?" he snapped.

"No, sir."

"You see that Road Closure sign?"


"That means you." He gestured like a basketball referee, and pointed back the way I'd come. "Now, geddahdahere!"

So I got the hell out of there. At least he didn't ticket me.

I rode aimlessly for the next hour and a half. At another barricade, workers kindly allowed me to walk my bike over a small, structurally compromised bridge. No cops present. If those workers had turned me back I'd have had to detour many more miles to get back home.

It has truly been a really wacky week.

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Torrential: Aftermath

We’re beginning to dry out here in my rain-soaked, flood-devastated berg by the Rocky Mountains in Colorado.

Beginning to.

Maybe you saw something about it on the news. At least four people died and many times that are still missing, in the aftermath of a hundred-year storm that dumped more than fifteen inches of rain over four days. Countless buildings and homes have sustained severe structural damage, as has the area's infrastructure. Thousands are displaced, and evacuations continue.

I've made a series of posts about this, usually with accompanying pictures. Their tone has been rather light. Perhaps that's because my community is fortunate to have been just out of serious harm's way, for the most part.

But it really is a humorless, life-or-death situation here. You can help.

Make a donation to Help Colorado Now.

Or you could make a donation to Red Cross emergency relief.

Or, make a donation to Save the Children, which as best I can tell is a secular outfit. That may make a difference to you. It certainly does to me.

I close with pictures of a nearby golf course, taken about three days apart. They were taken from about the same vantage point: the first on Friday, when flooding was at its worst, and the second one yesterday, as this is written – which is to say, taken Monday 9-16-13.

Sunday, September 15, 2013

Torrential: Sunday

After a mostly dry Saturday it’s raining again in Colorado, where since Tuesday we've had record precipitation and flooding. It was drizzly when I first got up Sunday morning, but when it tapered off I went out to inspect a collapsed bridge.

Access to the section of road leading to the bridge is restricted. After parking nearby I skirted the “Road Closed” barricade to see the damage up close.

When a tornado hits the cliche is to say a place looks like a war zone. Well, this looks like the aftermath of an earthquake. Let’s give this imaginary tremblor a 7.0 on the Richter scale.

This bridge is over the ordinarily mild-mannered Coal Creek. It's typically fifteen to twenty feet in its widest places. Now an adjacent field is totally flooded; and where the creek usually meanders by, there is a newly-formed cataract – the author of the collapsed bridge.

Once I had enough pictures I went back to the legal side of the barricade. A cop came along. I waved at him and he waved back. A few other people were down near the collapsed bridge. The cop didn’t get out of his car, but did pick up a microphone and speak through a loudspeaker:

“You’re in a restricted area; please vacate!”

After I got home the rain resumed. And it intensified. We can’t take a whole lot more down here in the flatlands. But if it rains heavily in the mountains again, well...that could touch off renewed walls of water surging down on us. And that would not be good.

Saturday, September 14, 2013

Torrential: Saturday

We had a brief respite today from the torrential rains that have devastated my state, from Denver up to Fort Collins. It may not last.

This morning was dry enough for me to venture out on my bike to check out the surroundings. I took a small camera along.
Above is one of my favorite byways for cycling, a couple of miles of usually tranquil country road slicing through ever-dwindling farmland.

As I neared the conclusion of my ride I came across the regular Saturday farmer’s market, a welcome sign of normalcy after the havoc of the last few days.

But we may be in for more.

Friday, September 13, 2013


The phrase “heavy rain” doesn’t even begin to describe the tremendous amounts of precipitation we’ve had in my mountainside berg in Colorado, over the last three or four days.

“Epic rainfall” is closer to the mark. Several people have been killed and there is extensive flooding over a very large area. Technically it has become a hundred-year flood.

President Obama has declared a State of Emergency. In addition to the two confirmed deaths, at least nine other people are missing.

As of Wednesday night, six and a half inches had fallen in a 24-hour period. The really heavy rain began after that. It has barely let up.

Schools are closed today (Friday) for the second straight day. One of the main highways between here and Denver was closed for a time, but is gradually reopening. I don't know how many people have been forced to evacuate their homes. Hundreds, easily; probably thousands.

Flood borne debris is scattered far and wide. Bridges have collapsed. Cars have been flipped over by surging water.

A common sentiment here is, "I've never seen anything like this before!" In times of crisis we fall back on cliches. Cliches are made of truth.

This morning I rode my bicycle over to a nearby golf course. The rain was in a lull when I left. What I found at the golf course was quite spectacular, though not in a good way.

Speaking solely of ourselves, we are safe. No localized flooding. Others are not so fortunate.

We aren't exactly drying out, but there hasn't been too much rain today. It started falling again while I was out on the bike but has since tapered off.

But there is more rain in the forecast.

Thursday, September 5, 2013

Ghost Bike: follow-up

Three weeks after it first appeared, the ghost bike is still there.

I wrote about this bike recently: how it was placed at the scene of an accident  that killed a cyclist, on the outskirts of my town.

I took the picture at left yesterday, as this is written. There are more personal items than there were at first, as the ghost bike is transformed into a makeshift shrine for the dead cyclist.

The newspaper article I based much of my first post on said the ghost bike was placed at the scene anonymously, which I duly reported. But the same article identified the supposedly anonymous person: a guy from the local bike co-op.

That same article quoted the co-op guy as saying ghost bikes sometimes remain at accident scenes for months and months, while other times they're gone within a few weeks.