Last Tuesday marked the six-month anniversary of the beginning of the September floods that impacted more than 24 Colorado counties, including outright devastation in several – with Larimer, Boulder and Weld hardest hit. Many communities are still recovering. Some neighborhoods are long gone. Many homeowners are starting over.
In taking note of the past six months, Gov. John Hickenlooper praised the “collaboration and commitment” that allowed the Colorado Department of Transportation to reopen all 27 flood-impacted state roadways prior to the Dec. 1 onset of winter deadline. The net effect of which was to get displaced residents back into their communities and homes.
But each of those roads will require more permanent repairs, the governor said. The first of those, already underway, is the emergency reconstruction of U.S. 36 between Estes Park and Lyons. One measure of the work that remains: CDOT has a $450 million allocation for flood recovery funding with only $55 million spent to date.
Hundreds of millions of dollars have come in grants and loans from federal agencies both prominent and obscure, from HUD and FEMA to the Farm Service Agency and the Emergency Conservation Program. The running total by the state Recovery Office is $1.42 billion allocated, with $822 million currently being used.
“Coloradans have accomplished a great deal in this short term recovery,” said Molly Urbina, the chief recovery officer, “but now is when we rebuild for the future. The commitment to Colorado’s recovery is needed more than ever as we hit the six month anniversary of the flooding.”
In other words, there is much, much work to be done. And more money will be needed.
At the same time, many officials are keeping a wary eye on what in most locales is a heavy winter snowpack, which could subject silt-filled streambeds, temporarily repaired roads, and heavily damaged irrigation infrastructure to more flooding if the wrong combination of hot days occurs.
For those parts of the state not impacted by the flooding, six-months can seem a pretty safe distance down the road. But Jamestown just reopened its post office last month, and Drake finally got its post office back on line just last week. For the hardest hit communities, six months is a tick on the long slog back.