A Learning Process: How Boulder Valley schools found strength through the floods

By Lauren Maslen

Hallway chair races, classroom dance parties, and group sing alongs. Morale boosters like these were the ingredients that helped boost the spirit of some teachers and students across Boulder Valley schools after floods poured through their classrooms in September.

“Some children donated their life savings – their piggy banks – to the Crest View fund,” Merlyn Holmes, a parent of a Crest View Elementary first grader, said. “They were aware that this was a big deal and they were really happy to have a school to go to and to help.”

When heavy rains and disastrous floods hit Boulder County in September 2013, they not only impacted educators all over Boulder Valley School District, but students as well. Teachers and staff were able to keep their cool, though. They not only handled the event well and managed problems as they arose, but they taught valuable lessons to their students along the way. Lessons like: how does a rain cycle work? Why is rain good for our planet and how could it be harmful in a flood? And maybe most importantly: how can we help our community?

This lesson wasn’t just one for the kids. It was one for the adults, too.

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Briggs Gamblin is Boulder Valley School District’s director of communications and legislative policy. This wasn’t the first flood Boulder experienced, he said, but it was unique in the challenges it presented. The floods blocked off access to all of Boulder’s major canyons. This made BVSD’s job of getting help to the schools, students, and teachers difficult, but even more imperative.

Boulder Valley School District is the seventh largest school district in Colorado. Over half of BVSD’s buildings were damaged in September’s floods and four of those buildings received, “moderate to severe damage,” according to a letter written by Superintendent Bruce K. Messinger to Colorado Governor John Hickenlooper. The total damage to the school district totaled close to $5 million.

Included in Messinger’s letter was a cost estimate submitted to the Federal Emergency Management Agency. Among those costs? An alternate program site for Crest View Elementary School students, food spoilage, fiber optic network damage, reconstruction, remediation, and clean up.

Officials realized the challenge that lay before them on Thursday, September 12. “The one school that really sustained some damage beyond that which could be handled by our maintenance people was Crest View Elementary School,” Gamblin said. Although the flood waters were initially controlled with tarps and sandbags in doorways of the building, they burst through on three more occasions. This flooded 85 percent of the building and kept kids out of school for over two weeks.

Crest View Strong

Merlyn Holmes was woken by a phone call during the night of September 12th.

“Our first thoughts were, ‘Oh goody, we have a rain day!’ We were a bit slow on the uptake. It seemed more like a snow day than an emergency,” Holmes said.

Holmes’ property is safely nestled near a retention pond not far from Crest View Elementary. “We watched that retention pond fill and drain and fill and drain repeatedly. It was really very beautiful and peaceful,” she said.

As the day progressed, however, Holmes and her family quickly realized the severity of the rain. The family walked to the Broadway underpass near their house, and realized the flood waters were raging.

“Our big question was: where were these waters going?” Holmes said. “It was only later the next day that we visited Crest View and we were shocked at seeing all the flood damage. There was a waterfall going through the playground.”

Holmes’ 6 year old son, Landryk, was out of school for two and a half weeks. “We did a lot of juggling at that time with work schedules and trying to figure out what would be best for our son,” she said.

An alternate program was made available through a partnership between BVSD and the YMCA. Teachers and some substitutes held classes at the Lafayette YMCA, including kindergarten enrichment teacher, Jill Williams, whose class became very interested in learning about rain.

“It was only natural to look out the window and talk about something we were experiencing and feeling depressed over, together,” said Williams. She shared the book “What Makes Rain: the Story of a Raindrop” with her kindergarteners.

Video of Crest View Elementary students in Jill Williams’ kindergarten enrichment class, courtesy Jill Williams.

Williams said that other teachers connected with their students during the flood in a multitude of ways, including video lessons and websites set up with lessons and educational material.

Buses were provided for students to attend the program which was offered at $50 per day to families and at no cost to those who self-identified as being on free and reduced lunch programs.

Volunteers offered to help at the school, said Gamblin, but because of health and safety concerns, professionals had to be brought in to do the job first. 13 days of non-stop construction and repair work aided in recovering the school from much of the damage. “Machines were clunking away at Crest View at 3 a.m.,” Gamblin said. “The neighbors were great. They also suffered damage and they were very supportive.”

Anything that was absorbent had to go –  materials, books, shelving, drywall, and carpets. What could be salvaged was loaded into unmarked cardboard boxes for teachers to sort through once they were allowed to return to the building.

Home Depot built shelving for teachers and puppet theaters for the kindergarten classrooms. Numerous businesses and other schools donated supplies and books to Crest View. “KidKraft donated free items to the kindergarten teachers, so I received a dollhouse for my room,” Williams said. SERVPRO, the company in charge of cleaning and restoration of the school also threw a Halloween party for their own staff and Crest View faculty.

The school’s outdoor vegetable garden and its Habitat and wetlands areas are still damaged. Asbestos and mold tests are continuing to be conducted throughout the year. And until recently, hot lunches were prepared off-site and brought to the school for lunchtime.

But is the school back to “normal” yet?

“Kids are so adaptable at this age,” Holmes said. The students were able to settle back into a day-to-day routine of learning, “even when they were on concrete floors and had no books on the shelves.”

“Crest View’s community is amazing and [principal] Ned Levine is even more amazing,” Williams said. “We never could have recovered without either of them. But we’re still not recovered. I think it won’t really be right until spring and maybe not completely normal until next fall.”

Crest View was a challenge. At that point, we didn’t know how big of a challenge it would be,” Gamblin said.

Jamestown Elementary School was also a challenge for BVSD, but for different reasons.

The school was used as an evacuation center for the town and “will need some soap and water,” Gamblin said. Jamestown’s challenge is on a different level than Crest View’s, however.

The school is intact and the students are learning. The town, meanwhile, faces an overhaul, leaving the school to play a waiting game. “We’re just waiting for full-town service access,” Gamblin said.

A Home for Jamestown Elementary 

Jamestown, Colo. suffered extreme devastation after September’s floods. With only some roads recently repaired, structures still damaged, and a water distribution system that remains offline, the town’s school, Jamestown Elementary, was forced to relocate for the year.

Beth Brotherton is the principal’s assistant at Jamestown Elementary School. After September’s floods, Brotherton decided to remain in her home in Jamestown and with her students.

Jamestown West recently settled into its new home for the year in Glacier View Ranch at Colorado Mountain Conference Center in Ward, Colo. The school currently has 14 students in first through fifth grade and two instructors, including Brotherton.

Meanwhile, Jamestown East is located in a classroom in Community Montessori in Boulder. The classroom is home to six students in third through fifth grade, and one part-time kindergartener. The students’ teacher from Jamestown Elementary went with her students to their new classroom in Boulder.

Many families from Jamestown Elementary are open-enrolled and their homes are located above the mountains. They received minimal water damage, Brotherton said. Shortly after the flood, The families met to discuss what would be best for the town, their children’s education, and for the well-being of each of their families.

One first grader’s family offered their home to use as a school. The fire department helped bring in tables for students to work on. Carpets were removed and a cork floor was installed.

On the first Wednesday back in class, 16 children showed up to their new classroom. “We stayed there for six weeks and we taught there for six weeks,” Brother said.

Volunteers came to teach music lessons twice a week. Recess was held in the backyard with a swing set and fort, and the kids ate lunch at the picnic tables outside.

This temporary school was something the children will remember forever. It couldn’t last, though. “The district brought us all together and asked us what we wanted. We knew we couldn’t legally stay there,” Brotherton said.

BVSD planned to use modular classrooms on the property of Glacier View Ranch. But between high costs, wind, and the trouble of transporting the modulars along the severely damaged roads, officials quickly realized this wouldn’t work.

The district negotiated with Glacier View Ranch to use a building on the property. “A beautiful log cabin, actually. It’s as big as Jamestown Town Hall,” Brother said.

Brotherton said that learning is definitely happening at Glacier View Ranch. The building is “very homey… It’s a good place for the kids.”

“It really is amazing how well it’s working out,” Brotherton said. “We feel really safe up there. The district really took care of us. They did a good job.”

A Lasting Impact

Gamblin said that between flood insurance, money from FEMA, grants from the state, and funds raised by the Colorado non-profit Impact on Education, virtually all of BVSD’s losses will be covered.

“One of the things about a crisis is that people don’t stop and ask, ‘Is that my area?’ People just do it. People organize quickly and they identify needs quickly,” Gamblin said.

Holmes said that although there is always room for improvement, she was impressed with how BVSD handled the situation.

“The one area where I hope all this will have a lasting impact on the children is in not taking things for granted and being grateful. I know we parents feel that and I’m sure the staff and faculty do, too,” said Holmes.

Homestar Child Development Center was temporarily relocated to Longmont after September's floods. // photo by Lauren Maslen

Homestar Child Development Center was temporarily relocated to Longmont after September’s floods. // photo by Lauren Maslen

Communicating During a Catastrophe: Boulder County’s emergency alert system proves beneficial

By Kendall Brunette

This was the big one — the event everyone knew could happen, but everyone hoped wouldn’t.

“When you’re in this line of work, you live for these kinds of incidents – you train for it,” said Steve Silbermann, the communications supervisor with the Boulder County Sheriff’s Office.  “You don’t live for it because you hope for harm on people, land or property, but this is what we do for a living.”

On the evening of Sept. 11, Silbermann left work at the county dispatch center.  It was raining outside, but never did it cross his mind that a historic storm was soon to follow.

But shortly after leaving, the dispatch center became inundated with 911 calls.  People were trapped in cars, stranded on roofs.  Most were simply confused.  They couldn’t fully grasp the severity of the situation.

Around 9 p.m., Silbermann returned to the dispatch center, where his his division chief turned him away, telling him to go home, get some rest and prepare for what would be a long week to come.

Eighteen-hour workdays became the norm. The sleep center within the county communications building remained full as employees worked tirelessly throughout the day and into the night.

Silbermann and his colleagues worked with police and fire departments, and EMS and rescue teams to coordinate emergency protocols and address 911 calls. Rescuers couldn’t respond to several calls simply because there was no access to people.

“The roads [were] being washed away,” Silbermann said.

September brought more than just flooding rain to Boulder County.  It brought challenges that the county never expected to face — problems brought about by a historic storm, but exacerbated by previous wildfire and technological communication issues.  Silbermann and colleagues were prepared to handle many of those challenges, but they never envisioned a flood of this magnitude.

Looking back, however, Silbermann is proud of what the county accomplished and, with a few tweaks in the system, feels that Boulder County is well-prepared for a similar catastrophe.

Fourmile Canyon Fire

Glen Haven road photo

The remnants of a road through the town of Glen Haven, Colo. after September’s flood.
Photo by Kendall Brunette

 

In 2010 the Fourmile Canyon fire burned more than 6,000 acres and 169 homes.  The devastating fire stripped the land of all vegetation.  The fire left scorched, barren soils prone to flooding.

“When you have a dense forest with undergrowth, you have plants and things to trap moisture and rain,” said Kari Bowen, meteorologist at the National Weather Service office in Boulder during an interview with LiveScience.  “But when it’s gone, you have nothing to catch it.”

“The fire also makes the ground almost hydrophobic, or water-repelling, and these effects can last 10 to 15 years,” she added.

Exactly three years after the fire, torrential rains consumed Boulder’s rivers, streams, valleys, hills and mountains.  As predicted, dry soil within the burn area did little to absorb the rain and floods ensued.

Over the last three years, hydrologists studied the area in an effort to better understand the increased post-fire flood risk.  According to Silbermann, Boulder County spent millions of dollars to help recover land within the Fourmile burn.  A process known as aerial mulching drops hay mixed with grass seeds from helicopters to increase water absorption on burned soils and re-vegetate the land.  The county hoped the mulching would speed up post-fire recovery and reduce the flood risk.

Boulder’s Office of Emergency Management (OEM) used the data from hydrologists to educate people living in the burn area, as well as the general public about what could happen in the event of severe weather.  While public education was concentrated on those people living within the burn, Silbermann believes that people everywhere were well-prepared for the flood.

“When we talk about these flood risks that existed after the Fourmile fire, we always imagined it was going to be isolated to the burn area – that those would be the only people severely affected by such a storm,” Silbermann said.  “We never imagined that it was going to be a massive up-slope storm that affected the whole Front Range, let alone just Boulder County. That was the kicker.”

Air Evacuations

Over the next few days, more than 2,000 people were evacuated by Chinooks, Blackhawks and various other air supports.  Silbermann’s sources claim that the 2013 Colorado Flood was the second largest air evacuation in U.S. history.  The only other natural disaster that used comparable air support was Hurricane Katrina.

Silbermann described the scene at the Boulder Municipal Airport – the incident command post during the flooding.

“It was kind of like when you’re at the Boulder Transit Center and RTD buses are flowing in and out – it was like that with helicopters,” Silbermann said.  “It was Chinooks landing and a bunch of people getting out, looking like they had come from DIA because they had their pets in pet carriers, kids in hand and rollaway luggage and duffels.”

Dispatch Communications

Louisville siren photo

Emergency siren in the town of Louisville, Colo.
Photo courtesy Dave Sittner

During the flooding, the Boulder County Dispatch Center relied primarily on their emergency siren system and Everbridge – an interactive communication and mass notification system to relay warnings to the public.  Everbridge sends emergency notifications via text message, phone calls and emails to people who opt-in to the system.

The Boulder County Fire Department designates zones throughout the county that are loaded into a mapping software program.  In the event of an emergency, county dispatchers can log into the program and send a specific message to certain zones.  For example, the Fourmile Burn area comprises a particular geographic zone.  Dispatchers send an array of pre-scripted messages, as well as improvised live warnings through Everbridge.

Four times throughout the year, landlines throughout the county are uploaded into Everbridge.  Messages go out automatically to these lines.  As cell phone popularity surpasses landline use, the need for people to enroll their cellular devices into Everbridge becomes important.  OEM has increased public education to make people aware of their option to opt-in to alerts.

During September’s flood, county dispatch sent over 80 emergency notifications through Everbridge.  The content of the notifications ranged from evacuation notices to water contamination warnings.  OEM maintained a variety of social media outlets including, Twitter, Facebook and their website to keep the public updated.

Rural Communication

For people living in rural parts of the county, however, Everbridge and social media are not reliable methods of communication.  Internet and cellular service can be spotty at best in areas like Boulder Canyon, Fourmile Canyon, Nederland and Lyons.  While Everbridge was still able to send messages through household landlines, the “door-to-door knock and talks,” as Silbermann called them, played a larger part in rural emergency notifications.  Police and fire department personnel conducted home visits that were critical is notifying rural residents of flood danger.

“Yes, communication technologies are invaluable, but that doesn’t compare to a cop or firefighter walking up to your door and saying, get out!” Silbermann said.  “That saved lives – we’ll never know how many.”

Emergency Sirens

siren encoder photo

One of the encoders used to remotely initiate the county’s emergency sirens.
Photo courtesy Dave Sittner

Dave Sittner, communications technician with the Boulder County Sheriff’s Office, said there are 23 emergency sirens throughout the county.  (View siren map here)

One of the questions Sittner frequently hears is why aren’t there sirens at certain locations. For example, why isn’t there a siren in the Fourmile burn zone?  

According to Sittner, there is no “magic bullet formula” determining siren placement.  Generally, officials try to place sirens in places of greatest efficiency – places where the sirens will be heard by the greatest number of people.  

Many rural communities throughout Boulder County don’t have sirens simply because of debilitating costs.  Sittner said that each siren costs approximately $25,000.  The only rural community with sirens within the county is Lyons.  

Dan Barber, deputy director at Boulder OEM, was the county sheriff sergeant assigned to Lyons.  During his time in this position, he urged town officials to spend the money to install new warning sirens.  Eventually, the town paid heed to Barber’s concerns and installed two sirens in 2008.  In Barber’s mind, it wasn’t if, but when the big flood was going to happen and in September Lyons residents were thankful for Barber’s persistent efforts.

Sittner and colleagues heard several reports that Lyons sirens saved countless lives during the flooding.  

After-Action Meetings

In the three months since the flood, local fire and police department, county dispatchers and EMS have and continue to host meetings to capture what went well and what needs to be improved upon, in terms of flood communications.

Silbermann said that, “Overall, this event went really well for emergency services.”  

Most of the challenges that the individual agencies faced were directly related to access.  

“We had 911 calls where we said, I’m sorry, we can’t get to you – a lot of them,” Silbermann said.  

The reality is that the flooding cut off a lot of people from help and emergency services.  One improvement being discussed in the after-action meetings is to map out more pre-determined zones for Everbridge messaging – Lyons specifically.  

“What we’ve done for the Fourmile burn planning, we’re expanding countywide,” Silbermann noted.

Some residents complained that they were unable to hear the siren messaging.  Sittner explained that the sirens are not meant to be heard indoors.  The hope is that the sirens will alert people who are outside and face the most immediate danger.  The Everbridge system complements the sirens by sending alerts to those indoors.  During September’s flood, heavy rain created ambient noise that interfered with the sirens – an issue that they county claims they don’t have any control over.  

Cry Wolf Syndrome

There has been a lot of concern over the years that Everbridge notifications and siren warnings may be used too liberally.  When a storm system settles over areas like the Fourmile burn, dispatchers alert residents of possible flood risks.  When these threats are unanswered, residents become desensitized to the notifications – a situation Silbermann refers to as “cry wolf syndrome.”

September’s events, however, opened people’s eyes to what could happen and how important the emergency communications system really is.    

“There’s no way to put a number on it – there’s no way to have a statistic of it, but we have done so much research and public education to notify our citizens of what could happen in the event of a flood over the last three years since the fire, that I truly believed we saved a lot of lives,” Silbermann concluded.

Boulder’s treacherous journey to flood recovery and resilience

By Lars Gesing

Meteorologists estimate that one inch of rain generally equals about a foot of snow, depending on the snow’s density, of course. That means early December’s 6-inch snowfall, inconvenient as it may have been, was the equivalent of about a half-inch of September rain.

Now flash back just three months, when dozens of Colorado communities were drowned in the misery of a relentless surge of rainwater, mud and debris that broke its way through major portions of the state’s Front Range and Eastern Plains.

Seventeen inches of rain poured down during those eight days in mid-September. Do the math — that’s somewhere around 17 feet of snow, if that precipitation had come this month. As rain, though, the water came down as what the National Weather Service quickly described as a 1,000-year event. The scars it carved into canyons and communities alike will remain palpable for years to come.

In those three months that have passed since the flood, the city of Boulder has managed to re-establish a facade of normalcy. City life soon fell back into routines once the waters receded and the worst – meaning most visible – impacts had been cleaned up.

Yet much work still remains to be done. The city plans to complete repairs of the water system and wastewater facility by spring 2014 and restore a majority of city areas to pre-flood conditions by the end of 2015.

Created with infogr.am

Created with infogr.am

Also, as nearly one-third of all Colorado households damaged by floodwaters lie within Boulder and about 15 percent of all city households were damaged (see graph) three months is barely enough to get back to normal.

Just ask Michele Vion and you’ll learn how fresh the wounds cut by disaster still are.

Physically ripping out the toilet

While the floodwaters spared Vion’s family home in South Boulder near Table Mesa, five inches of raw sewage accumulated in her basement.

A Boulder City Council summary of the flood noted: “The majority of impacts were located outside of regulatory floodplains due primarily to groundwater and sewage backups.”

Vion translated the official jargon: “The sewage came literally out of every hole.”

In her desperation, she ripped the toilet out of the ground with her bare hands, hoping to cap the welling fountain it had turned into. It did not work.

“At some point, we just gave up and waited for it to be over,” Vion said. She and her family waited six days.

Three months later, Vion’s basement is still a construction site. To physically restore normalcy in her home, the mother of five had to spend $40,000. A sewage insurance policy paid her $5,000, the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) cut a $2,000 check. Vion will spend years to repay the remaining $33,000 through a low-interest loan.

She shares her fate with many families across the city. Some, like Christine and Ari Rubin who suffered an estimated $30,000 damage, were covered by FEMA flood insurance they had just recently bought after the city mailed a postcard to their home advising them to do so. But many others are now shaken with regret because they did not do the same thing.

Faced with many residents’ anger, the city has since deliberated over possibilities to prevent similar damage from occurring. Councilwoman Suzanne Jones urged city council during a Dec. 3 “lessons learned” meeting to take immediate action.

“If we have another flood and we have these kinds of sewer backups again, people will have our heads if we haven’t at least looked at this,” she said.

Flood recovery costs $43 million

Jeff Arthur, director of the Boulder utilities division, estimated the city will need $400 million to improve existing wastewater and stormwater infrastructure to a level where it would be able to withstand a disaster like this year’s flood. Usually, his department spends about 1 percent of that amount, or $4 million, on improvements.

He told Jones during the meeting that it was a question of how much investment the city was willing to make over time.

With an already tight budget, money is scarce within city government post-flood. Recovery costs keep rising and are currently estimated at $43 million.

That number includes repair bills for more than 50 damaged city buildings; water, sewer, and stormwater infrastructure; Open Spaces and Mountain Parks (OSMP) restoration, sediment and debris removal as well as repair costs for damaged roads and sidewalks.

FEMA will reimburse 75 percent of the city’s recovery costs, another 12.5 percent of expenses will flow back into city pockets from the state capitol, leaving Boulder with a bill of least $5 million. The bulk of that money comes from a disaster reserve fund and flex repair dollars, pretty much emptying those pots.

The situation left Boulder Mayor Matt Appelbaum worried about “the next event that is going to happen without those funds,” whether it would be a fire – “or something else.”

The immediate impact on the city’s financial situation is even worse. Boulder Chief Financial Officer Bob Eichem told city council it would take FEMA between six months and two years to transfer the money back onto city bank accounts.

However, he said, they wanted to “rebuild the reserves within one year.”

More financial help is coming from Washington, D.C. On Dec. 5, Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper announced that the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development approved a $63 million cash injection “to help our communities recover from the flood.”

Days after the floods hit town, then-candidate and now elected councilman Sam Weaver said the event would “give the city a chance to assess how we did with the flood” and improve accordingly.

Three months later, those mitigation efforts have gathered momentum.

“We don’t want to take things back to the way they were, but we want to make them better,” Eichem said. And city manager Jane Brautigam made a case during a recent city council meeting to recover from the flood in a way that would leave the community “more resilient than before.”

While Mayor Appelbaum supports the city’s mitigation efforts, he emphasizes financially sound decisions, distributing existing funds to where they are most needed.

“For certain types of floods, there is just nothing we can do,” he said. “Especially because the water doesn’t always go where we think it is going.”

City trying to help aching business community

According to Boulder Chamber of Commerce CEO John Tayer, those in need are to a great extent local businesses.

“They have borne a heavy toll in terms of infrastructure damage and business disruption,” Tayer said.

The Canyonside Office Park at 100 Arapahoe St. was completely destroyed by the September floods. Credit: U.S. Small Business Administration

The Canyonside Office Park at 100 Arapahoe St. was completely destroyed by the September floods. Credit: U.S. Small Business Administration

Flood-related closures and dislocations ranging from reduced sales traffic to lost inventory worsened the situation.

As Brautigam noted in a memo sent to city council members on Dec. 3, the non-profit organization Downtown Boulder Inc. still receives calls from people asking if it was possible again for them to get to Boulder after the floods.

Tayer said there was a general sense that the flood has had a long-term economic impact because residents and tourists have reduced disposable income to spend at retail stores and in restaurants around town.

“Finally, the floods dampered tourism to our community,” Tayer said.

The Chamber president himself was among those who had to gut their basements after the floods. As did so many others, the Tayer family dealt with serious stress. His wife, Molly, the Boulder County Clerk and Recorder, had to respond to a number of unique challenges herself. It was her task to ensure that those who were displaced in the aftermath of the flood still had a chance to vote in the November elections.

Boulder city government tried to respond to local businesses struggles by partnering with Downtown Boulder Inc. and Twenty Ninth Street to run the marketing campaign “Buy into Boulder.” The ads placed in late November and December are supposed to remind holiday shoppers that for every $100 spend in Boulder, $3.41 flows into the pockets of community services and programs.

The more the city sends the message “buying and dining local,” the more money it makes through sales taxes.

New data from the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) shows just how much local businesses need help to get back on their feet.

The SBA has approved $7.5 million in business and economic injury loans for businesses from all around the county that were affected by the flood.

SBA spokesperson Garth MacDonald said he was unable to break down the data to city-level, but his organization would “work with Boulder County applicants to fully complete and process applications” that have yet to be approved.

Flood Rebuilding & Permit Information Center there to assist

Despite all the efforts, it is common political consensus that recovery efforts can be successful only in cooperation with the county.

Therefore, Boulder County opened the Flood Rebuilding & Permit Information Center at its Land Use Department in downtown Boulder three weeks after the disastrous surges hit the Front Range.

The center is a “one-stop portal for people with their various flood-related questions and issues,” staff member Cindy Pieropan said.

Up to six employees deal with a couple dozen daily inquiries, a lot of them related to damaged or destroyed homes, access issues because of broken roads or problems with the septic system.

Pieropan said the center would remain open for at least one, but more likely two more years to deal with the aftermath of the flood.

“A flood is different than for example a fire, which doesn’t damage roads,” she explained. With winter approaching rapidly and with brutal force, it becomes increasingly hard to repair roads before spring, Pieropan said, pointing out that flood impacts tended to be long-term.

Boulder County Flood Recovery Manager Gary Sanfacon explained in a recent video-message to citizens that debris was still one of the core issues in the recovery process.

“A lot of debris has come up on private properties,” Sanfacon said. It was also still in the creeks and could pose future hazards, which is why the county started to implement a debris pick-up program, a collaborative citizen cleaning effort.

Meanwhile, the city of Boulder has managed to break down the number of key objectives for the near-term flood recovery to five. A memo to city council members lists the following activities:

  1. Help people get assistance;
  2. Restore and enhance infrastructure;
  3. Assist business recovery;
  4. Pursue and focus resources to support recovery efforts; and
  5. Learn together and plan for the future.

The city also focusses on restoring the 10 percent of trails in the open spaces that remain closed at this point. A special case is the popular Royal Arch Trail. It was the most severely damaged of all trails in the system. OSMP director Mike Patton and his team keep evaluating best practices on how to rebuild Royal Arch Trail.

In his letter to the editor of the Daily Camera dated Oct. 8, Boulder resident Jim Martin sums up the 17 lessons he learned from the flood. Despite all the misery the devastating floods brought over the city, the county, and the state, Martin’s ultimate lesson is an acknowledgement of outstanding community recovery efforts.

Martin wrote: “There is a little bit of heaven in every disaster area.”

Related links:

Flood Rebuilding & Permit Information Center: http://www.bouldercounty.org/flood/property/pages/floodrecoverycenter.aspx

Mapping the flood: https://bouldercolorado.gov/water/flood-maps

Tell your flood story: https://boulderflood2013b.crowdmap.com/main

Boulder County flood information: www.bouldercountyflood.org

Weekly round-up November 23: Crime & Punishment

Boulder police shot and killed a knife-wielding man at 30th and Madison Sunday, believing a fellow officer was about to be stabbed. The deceased’s father has called his son’s death “murder.” The officer has been placed on administrative live with pay while the “shoot team” investigates.

On Friday, Hector Diaz, 49, was arrested and charged in connection to a series of raids last week on marijuana facilities in Denver and Boulder County. Diaz, a Colombian, is charged with one count of being an alien illegally in possession of a firearm.

Metro Denver police are striving to reconnect theft victims with stolen goods. Over 600 items are available to be claimed, the result of several auto-theft incidents in September and October. Them items range from skis to Halloween costumes.

The Colorado education round-up for November 23

BVSD and Louisville Elementary School

The Daily Camera reports that after experiencing a growing increase in yearly enrollment, Louisville Elementary School is under the microscope of neighboring school districts, including Boulder Valley. School district officials are examining if Louisville’s strategies may be successful in BVSD schools.

Farm to Table Grant

 In an attempt to bring more locally sourced, natural food and products to schools around the country, the USDA awarded Farm to Table grants to 71 projects in the United States. Four projects were awarded grants in Colorado, including $98,000 to Boulder Valley School District, the Daily Camera reported.

FAFSA ‘unnecessary’ say experts

Colorado Senator Michael Bennet sat before a senate committee to discuss simplifying the application for federal student aid on Wednesday, Nov. 20th. Bennet was not alone in questioning the need for the Free Application for Federal Student Aid, or FAFSA, during a senate hearing which examined “critical issues in post-secondary education,” the CU Independent reported.

Boulder this weekend: Spamalot, Pridefest and Russian Avant-Garde

By Jessica Caballero

Boulder Dinner Theater presents “Spamalot”

Juliet Whittman of Westword previews Boulder Dinner Theater’s “Spamalot,” which begins its run this week through March 2014. Playwright, lyricist, and composer Eric Idle worked with composers John Du Prez and Neil Innes to create the Tony award winning musical “ripped lovingly from the 1975 motion picture ‘Monty Python and the Holy Grail’.”

10th Annual Boulder Pridefest – for the first time at the Boulder Theater

The 10th Annual Boulder Pridefest is happening this weekend for the first time at the Boulder Theater after being delayed by the September floods. This year, the festival will be featuring Denver natives The Tah Tahs, burlesque and drag, and aerial dancers. The main event will be on Saturday night from 3 p.m. to 8 p.m. at the Boulder Theater, with a  21 and older after party for an additional cost, beginning at 9 p.m. with proceeds going to Out Boulder for losses sustained postponing the festival.

Adam Lerner’s “From Russia With Drinks” book conversation and presentation

On her blog page for Westword, Bree Davies discusses an exhibition of Russian Avant-Garde pieces with Adam Lerner, director at the Museum of Contemporary Art Denver. A conversation and presentation of his new book “From Russia With Drinks” about how he acquired these pieces and what it took to exhibit them will take place at the MCA Denver on Saturday, November 23 from 5 p.m. to 8 p.m.

A new climbing film, Eldora, and concussions: November 22 Health and Recreation round-up

By Kirsten Ellis

A climbing film for everyone

Three Boulder climbers are featured in a new climbing film, which premiered Wednesday at the Boulder Theater, called “Exposure 1.” Filmmakers Chuck Fryberger and Kyle Berkompas aimed to show the emotion behind the sport, both on and off the rock, the Colorado Daily said.  Tickets to watch online can be bought on EpicTV.

Eldora Mountain Resort opens

“Stoked” skiiers and snowboarders decended on Eldora today for opening day, The Denver Post said.  The Epic Pass includes Eldora for the first time this year, adding this closer resort option for local skiiers.  They currently have a 20 inch base and got six inches of new snow in the last 72 hours, according to Eldora’s website.

Concussions are worse than you may have thought

Here’s the bottom line, don’t hit your head against a tree while skiing.  According to an article in The Denver Post, most people think they are ready to be out playing sports again too quickly after a concussion, and can cause and even more serious brain injury, since their body is not fully functioning yet.  So, even a mild concussion can result in more long-term consequences.