BOULDER — Colorado’s floodwaters are down, but the workload is up and some local businesses are working with a Boulder-based group to help with the cleanup.
“Boulder Flood Relief is a volunteer group that has its boots on the ground — or more often in stinking mud,” said Raj Manickam, Steammaster CEO.
Manickam and others are rallying support from the disaster and restoration industry for the cleanup.
“After first responders, who are out saving lives, we are always there next in line,” Manickam said. “Over the years, our industry has mobilized rapidly to respond to natural disasters: flooding, hurricanes, tornadoes, wildfires, wind and hail storms. We watch the weather more intently than the average person.”
Working where they’re needed
Many organizations keep saying “no volunteers are needed” to help flood victims, but last weekend, Boulder Flood Relief sent hundreds to Boulder and Longmont anyway, and it turns out that they were needed, said the program’s organizers.
“I got tired of reading all these messages on official websites saying that volunteers weren’t needed. I went to Craigslist and found plenty of people who needed help, and that’s how I found Boulder Flood Relief,” said volunteer Linda Angiono.
The Front Range was deluged with about 20 inches of rain in four days, the equivalent of getting their annual rainfall in less than a week. The historic flood hit 17 counties and killed eight people.
In addition, 50 bridges were damaged, along with more than 200 miles of state highways and roads covering more than 1,533 square miles. The Colorado Office of Emergency Management reported electric outages for 76 homes and natural gas outages for 1,282 homes. More than 17,500 homes have been damaged or destroyed by the floods.
While there was still rescuing to be done, Vail Mountain Rescue headed to the Front Range to help Rocky Mountain Rescue in Boulder. A dozen locals spent four days pulling people to safety and away from the rising flood waters.
The team flew with the National Guard — some from the local HAATS site — to remote areas.
The team was also utilized in other roles. As the designated swift water rescue team, it provided radio relays and helped people cross swollen streams to safety.
“This huge incident was a good place to utilize the team’s skills,” said Dan Smith, of Vail Mountain Rescue.
Occupy to help
Boulder Flood Relief was started by veterans of the Occupy movement to help with the cleanup and includes many University of Colorado at Boulder students. CU Ph.D. candidate Meghan Dunn, one of the founding organizers, spent nine months working with and researching emergency response techniques used in New York during Occupy Sandy storm relief.
“We exist to facilitate the flow of compassionate community response,” said Boulder Flood Relief organizer Dan Thorson. “We are trying to be careful about not duplicating what other good organizations are already doing.”
In less than two weeks, BFR has built a volunteer database of more than 3,000 people. It has completed more than 150 volunteer-assisted projects and is currently working in several neighborhoods based on requests and needs.
“The need to assist remains vast. Most victims did not have flood insurance, and neither FEMA nor insurance payments will cover more than a small fraction of their losses,” Manickam said.
Staff Writer Randy Wyrick can be reached at 970-748-2935 and firstname.lastname@example.org.