|Pella Crossing/Fall 2012|
What a crazy time it’s been since my last blog update. In that span of time I’ve finished and edited a novella — First Strike: The Erotic Prequel to Striking Distance — been through the biggest flood in the state of Colorado’s recorded history, and helped my younger son pack up and head off for eight months as a teaching assistant in France.
Not exactly a dull time.
Let’s start with the floods.
You probably all saw it on television — massive flash floods caused by a period of heavy rain along Colorado’s Front Range. I just happen to live in Boulder County which is next to Larimer County. Those two counties were the worst hit in the state. My home was not flooded, but the destruction around us was unbelievable, truly staggering.
|This used to be a parking lot. The structure toward the center is the restroom facility. |
This ravine, carved by floodwater, is probably 15 feet deep.
The Rocky Mountains aren't really equipped to deal with lots of rain. We get heavy snows in the high country, but snow melts slowly, feeding the creeks and streams, seeping into the thin, rocky soil, soaking the forest duff. Rain, on the other hand, runs off the soil, taking the path of least resistance downhill. The foothills along the Front Range contain a series of canyons, each with its own stream or river, that funnel runoff from rain and snow out to the plains. When too much water runs into those streams at once, we can get flash floods, where high walls of water rip down from the mountains and tear apart anything in their paths.
|The flooding washed down the earthen walls that held Webster Lake, pushing that |
water through Heron Lake and out through a farmer's field.
In July 1976, for example, a rainstorm in the mountains to the west of Loveland sent a torrent of water down the Big Thompson Canyon, which most of the time looks like an unimpressive creek, and killed 143 people, five of whom were never found but were probably buried in rock and mud. The terrible death toll and the devastation spurred all of the cities along the Front Range to prepare for flash floods because all of them have little rivers, creeks and streams capable of doing with the Big Thompson River did.
|Sunset Lake, Pella Crossing, the day after the flood|
But no one, not even city planners, could have imagined what happened a couple of weeks ago, when the entire Front Range flooded at once, ever creek, river, stream, and ditch between Fort Collins and Colorado Springs flooding at once. The fact that only seven people died instead of hundreds is proof that the work the cities all did to prepare paid off.
|Grandmother Cottonwood, which Benjy and I have said hello to on our walks since he |
was a little boy, survived the flood. The trail did not.
When Benjamin went back to work, he helped assist in the rescues, carrying things off helicopters that the National Guard was using to bring people down from the mountains. It was an unforgettable and very sobering experience for him, I’m sure.
|Two mangled vehicles lie completely buried in sand and muck.|
Seven people lost their lives. Thousands lost their homes. And we all lost some of the infrastructure of our state and our cities with highways washed out, open space areas destroyed, trails washed away. Our most personal lost came in the form of Pella Crossing, which I often referred to on Facebook and Twitter as “the lakes.” It’s a place I love, and it will be a very long time before it’s open to the public again.
I’ve posted a lot of photos of the place here over the years. It’s where I used to go for walks and where I took Benjamin for walks when he was a kid. The top photo shows Pella roughly a year ago. The remaining photos show what it is today. To get some sense of scale, look at the restroom facilities, tossed aside like a doll house. Those doors are big enough for people to walk through.
|The St. Vrain carved a new path through Pella and through a farmer’s field.|
The flood brought sewage from Lyons into the area. It killed fish by washing them out of the lakes and leaving them high and dry. There are dead chickens and geese lying around. It has been hard for all of us who saw these places on a daily basis to grasp what has happened.
|Anyone missing a pickup or a mobile home? Here they are.|
While all this was going on, I was trying to finish First Strike while Chinook helicopters flew overhead. Perhaps because I couldn’t really go anywhere, I succeeded. The novella, which is about 17,000 words long, will be out on October 22. Watch for an excerpt soon!
|Benjamin at the airport about to leave for France|
And no sooner had I finished editing it — and I really do mean that — it was time to take Benjamin to the airport. He left his Ranger job temporarily to go to France for a once-in-a-lifetime chance to work as a teaching assistant at a public school 35 minutes south of Paris. Saying good-bye to him was hard because I’m going to miss him so much. But I know he’s going to have the time of his life.
So it was writing, writing, writing, rain, floods, editing, driving to the airport to say good-bye to my youngest for eight months.
Can you say whirlwind?
So that’s where I’ve been. I am very grateful that my entire family was spared damage to our health and our property. We all live in either Boulder or Larimer county, right in the heart of the flooding. Not everyone was so lucky, and I feel deep sadness for those who lost their lives, their livelihoods, and their homes.
Right now, with First Strike about to come out (Oct. 22) and Striking Distance right behind it (Nov. 5), I’m turning my attention to a possible Christmas novella and plotting the next full-length I-Team novel. But give me a second to catch my breath here.
Coming next: An excerpt from my sexiest novel yet, First Strike.