The devastating flood that has thrown the Front Range and some northern counties of Colorado into turmoil has called on aid from across the state and country.
The Grand County community has chipped in to help the people affected by the flood by opening the doors of East Grand Middle School to evacuated school children from Estes Park, sending local emergency response personnel to the Front Range to help clear debris and reopen roads, and also by raising donations for a flood relief fund that was established by the Fraser and Winter Park Chamber of Commerce.
The flooding has claimed numerous lives, destroyed homes and roads, and forced thousands of Colorado residents to be evacuated from their hometowns to seek refuge in evacuation centers.
As of Tuesday, Sept. 17, eight deaths had been reported in connection with the flood; two people from El Paso County, three people from Boulder County, and two people from Larimer County, and one more death still to be announced, with that number expected to rise, according to Micki Trost, a public information officer with the Colorado Department of Public Safety.
The number of people who remain unaccounted for was cut in half in the past couple of days and now sits at 648.
There are 11,750 Colorado residents under mandatory evacuation with 24 shelters in place until evacuations orders are lifted.
Preliminary numbers from Trost indicate nearly 18,000 homes were damaged from the floodwaters and over 1,500 homes were completely destroyed.
The damage spread across 17 Colorado counties, with 15 of those counties being placed on the emergency disaster declaration and Adams, Larimer, Boulder and Weld counties on the major disaster declaration.
The disaster declarations are signed by President Obama and offer aid to individuals, families and businesses that have been affected by the floods.
Grand County agencies and residents are chipping in to help out with the relief efforts in the counties affected by the floods by offering local emergency response personnel and equipment, sheltering displaced Coloradans, and working to raise money to go toward a relief fund for the flood, which was established by the Fraser and Winter Park Chamber of Commerce.
Currently, two different fire protection districts in the area have sent engines and firefighters to help with the flood cleanup, with Granby Fire sending two type 2 engines down with teams of two firefighters to each engine and have already swapped those firefighters for four more.
Grand Lake Fire has sent down a type 6 engine, a smaller fire engine designed to fight wildfires, with a crew of three firefighters.
Nowell Curran, a emergency manager with the Grand County Office of Emergency Management, has offered her services to the incident command team in Larimer County, where an estimated 1,120 square miles has been affected by the flood and around 1,000 residents still wait for evacuations from remote areas.
Larimer County is reporting some of the heavier hit areas of the county experienced a 1,000-year flood, while other, less impacted areas experienced a 100-year flood.
“It’s pretty ugly,” Curran said. “There is a lot of damage and a lot of evacuations, and there are a lot of people who are still stuck.”
The Red Cross prepared a shelter at East Grand Middle School in Granby to shelter 175 youth camp evacuees from the Estes Park YMCA on Friday night, Sept. 13.
Local bus drivers drove four buses over Trail Ridge Road, the only road that provides access to the town of Estes Park, to evacuate the 21 adults and 154 7th-graders.
Players from the Middle Park High School football team helped to set up cots for the shelter with the school’s cook helping to prepare the food provided by the Red Cross.
The evacuees were transported back to Estes Park the following morning by a commercial bus.
“The kids did really well,” said Mike Thompson, the fleet manager for the school bus depot who helped transport children from Estes Park. “Considering they went from having a good day to being evacuated and spending a night in a strange school without their parents.”
The Fraser and Winter Park Chamber of Commerce has established the Estes Park Relief Fund to raise money to help with the recovery efforts in Estes Park and the surrounding areas.
The Grand Lake Chamber also plans to raise funds during their Constitution Week celebration, which starts Tuesday, Sept. 17, and continues through Saturday, Sept. 21, by placing donation jars throughout town.
The Colorado Department of Public Safety asks that anyone who has been evacuated or was in the impacted area register at SafeAndWell.org so that family and friends know they are safe and are no longer unaccounted for.
Reid Tulley can be reached at 970-887-3334