This is what the Eastwood Village site looks
like today. (Terry Frei)
The sign at the East 37th Street entrance what once was an Evans manufactured mobile home park
still is in place five years after the Flood of 2013.
It is mocking.
MANUFACTURED HOME COMMUNITY
Best Located Community
in Northern Colorado
A separate sign next to it orders, “NO DUMPING” and “KEEP OUT”.
There are no homes, just a few trees,
on the site.
neighborhood was wiped out in the flooding
and serves as the most graphic evidence of the damage. There are others, providing anecdotal examples of the toll of the monumental
storm and flooding in Weld County, plus the devastation that also struck Larimer and Boulder counties.
A search and rescue member helps a woman escape
the rising water as people are evacuated from the Eastwood Village mobile home park and the surrounding neighborhoods in Evans
during the 2013 flooding in September. (Tribune File Photo)
Many residents of Eastwood Village ended up staying with relatives
and friends in the aftermath, but as many as 100 were quartered in a temporary shelter at the Greeley Recreation Center, in
McRoberts, Greeley’s director of Culture, Parks and Recreation, was in charge of the shelter, located in the Greeley Recreation Center.
“We got a call from the Red Cross
in the afternoon saying it looked like there was going to be some severe flooding and weather happening that could cause evacuation
from certain areas,” McRoberts recalled.
Then came the deluge and word that the two mobile home parks in Evans — Eastwood
and nearby Bella Vista — were uninhabitable. And as a one-two punch, the flood destroyed Evans’ wastewater
treatment plant, leaving potential shelters there without toilets or showers.
“So we started setting up emergency cots and getting
the shelter set up in the gymnasium in the rec center,” he said “We thought it would be a good place for a shelter
because of the gymnasium and we had a full kitchen and a smaller gym and classrooms for extra shelter if we needed it.
“We had done
shelters in the past where you get one person showing up. You prepare for the worst and then it never happens. This time,
we ended up getting a couple of dozen people in here the first night.”
At that point, McRoberts noted, the Red Cross “was getting
pulled in about seven directions.” They set up the shelter anyway, and the day after the water hit, they couldn’t
stop the flow of donated goods.
“We were getting inundated, with things like toiletries and diapers,” he said. ”It was
a little bit of chaos, but it was a great thing.”
At its peak as a shelter, the Recreation Center housed nearly 100. The kitchen
produced meals, and there was a food line and activities organized for the children.
Most of those at the Recreation Center, McRoberts
said, were from the Evans mobile home parks.. McRoberts and others began to feel the strain of taking care of a large group
of people without homes. Plus, there was the issue of a City of Greeley facility being used mainly for Evans residents.
three days, we told the Red Cross this was getting beyond our capabilities as a staff,” McRoberts said. “They
mobilized their national sheltering unit. They had people coming in here from pretty much all over the country. They kind
of took over, and it was an outpouring of community support.”
The shelter remained open about two weeks, McRoberts said. By then,
some of the Red Cross staff that had arrived in Greeley were veterans of such disasters at Hurricane Katrina in New Orleans.
what they were doing,” McRoberts said.
However, as time went on, the Red Cross didn’t screen those seeking shelter. Security issues
popped up, with such things as petty thefts becoming problems. The Greeley Police jumped in and provided 24-hour security,
with Chief Jerry Garner taking some of the shifts. Soon, though, the Red Cross was able to place those with no alternatives
in hotel rooms or other temporary shelter.
Others in the Greeley area dealt with damages to their homes and properties.
* * *
Tommy Meyers, his
wife and two children lived at 22378 U.S. Highway 34 in Greeley, virtually adjacent to the South Platte River.
A few years before the flood, Meyers
said, he and his wife, Nicole, purchased a second parcel of land behind their lot, and they ended up with two mortgages. Nicole
watched the river creep toward their home, a sight she never thought she’d see. It just never seemed possible. The river,
by that point, was several feet above the record. It was almost another entity.
The Meyers family managed to get their livestock to higher
ground and got out themselves and a few possessions before the river came for their house.
“The highway was elevated,” Meyers
said. “The water came and just started building up, and it pushed across our driveway and into the vacant piece of property
next to us. It created a big eddy, and when the highway broke, it washed our house away.”
At that point, that part of U.S. 34 across the
Platte looked more like pieces of a jigsaw puzzle than a bridge.
“Everything was gone,” Meyers said. “We had to start over.”
The Meyers lived
with Nicole’s sister’s family, then in a home owned by a Meyers employer. He managed to get a loan and rebuild
on the land, at a slightly different address. That was symbolic. That was a reboot.
“Oh, yeah, we’re good,” said Meyers, 45.
“I’m not looking for anything.
“Could we use some help every now and then? Yes. But there’s always someone who could
use the help more.”
* * *
At Journey Christian Church in Greeley, parishioners responded
to pastor Arron Chambers’ call for donations with clothing for those affected, and the church’s main lobby in
effect became a second-hand store, all of it for free to anyone in need. There were no questions asked .
“It wasn’t just clothing,”
said parishioner Janet Morris of Greeley, a church volunteer. “We had toiletries and hygiene items. We had something
of everything here to help the community.”
Morris was directly affected herself, at her small ranch on County Road 54, parallel
to U.S. 34, with a Greeley mailing address. She and her husband, James Wheeler, had a small herd of cows, plus J Bar M German
Shepherd show dogs and about 20 horses.
Morris, who labels herself “an Iowa farm girl,” had lived on the ranch for more than 30
years and experienced only a couple of minor floods, with water reaching her pastures. But it was nothing particularly threatening.
This time, it was,
and she said it was a “100 percent” surprise.
She said she was drinking tea that morning, looking out her back window.
to see water come up into the bottom pasture, and I thought, ‘Yeah, it’s creeping up there and after I have breakfast,
I’ll take a walk down there and see how it looks,’” she said. “I was on my second cup of tea and some
water was clear up into the next pasture. I thought, ‘You know what, I better forget my tea and put my shoes on and
go out and take a look.’
“When I got to the back steps, the water was up to the sheep shed and I went back in and got my irrigation
boots on. By the time I got outside, water was in the corral and all I could do with my cows was open the pen and shoo them
out to the road. That’s how fast it was.
“The reservoir company called my neighbor across the street and told him he was
going to get completely drowned. They told him they were going to try to make two cuts in the lake ditch to try and save the
town of Kersey and that he would for sure get it. He was getting it from three sides. We had to take wire cutters to cut all
the fences for the horses, had to let my dogs out of the kennel. Later, I had to call Weld County to get them, and they took
a boat in to get my dogs.
“It was pretty traumatic. We walked out in water holding our things to get out of there.”
Behind her, three to six feet of water
covered her land. The water filled the crawl space but didn’t seep into the house. She and Wheeler were remodeling at
the time, and they lost furniture in some outbuildings that were flooded.
For the next three months, their animals lived at various places
in the Loveland area before Morris and Wheeler were able to bring them back to the ranch.
“We had flood insurance, but flood insurance
only paid for your home,” Morris said. “Water did not go inside our home. The flood insurance paid for the damage
underneath our home, but not to the agricultural things.”
After the crawl space repairs were made and mold spray preventative was applied,
Morris had severe asthma issues. She was in North Colorado Medical Center for a week and made several emergency room visits
before it was determined that the restoration company missed a transfer duct with water in it. That led to black mold.. So
the insurance company did pay for a furnace, air conditioning and duct replacements.
“It took us about two and a half years before we had all of our fencing replaced,” Morris said.
* * *
Greeley real-estate agent and auctioneer Art Parker was in Crested Butte for a real-estate
auction when the flood hit. His wife, Fran, called to let him know water was coming on to their property at 26501 County Road
43 in Greeley, and he started back. He and Fran had three
horses and three dogs.
“Fran hooked up the horse trailer and moved a lot of the furniture from downstairs to upstairs by herself,”
Parker said. “I made one call to the coffee shop I go to — the Double Clutch at the Stampede Truck Stop — and 10 people showed up in about 10 minutes
to help her. They couldn’t stay, though, because the water was coming in so fast.”
Fran got out with the horses. “She came back
to get the dogs, but it came in so fast she couldn’t get back out, so the fire department came and got her,” Art
had four feet of water go through the property. Out of 15 acres, I didn’t have a fencepost left on the place. We lost
three vehicles. One of the sheds got moved about 20 yards. Half of my barn got wiped out. Some of my implements went down
Parkers had the main floor of the house rebuilt.
“It’s a two story home and everything in the lower level got destroyed, the
furnace, the hot water heater, all the appliances, cabinets,” he said. “We ended up gutting the house and starting
didn’t have flood insurance for the home, but Parker has no complaints.
“I got a lot of help from friends,” he said. “I
got help financially and physically to clean up the place. I have to say FEMA was extremely good to us. They did everything
they could go help me, and the county was a lot of help with the cleanup.”
He said about 25 fellow Realtors showed up in a work party
two weeks after the flood to help out, and help also came from members of his church.
“I found out who my friends are,” he
* * *
At Sunrise Community Health’s Monfort Family Clinic in Evans, staffers met monumental
challenges. Sunrise, which has various facilities in Greeley, Evans and Loveland, doesn’t turn anyone aside and charges
by ability to pay. Its services were in demand.
“That Friday, I was down for a meeting in Colorado Springs,” said Mitzi Moran,
Sunrise Community Health’s CEO. “I got a text saying that there was a flood,, so I jumped in the car and ran back
flooding didn’t reach the clinic, but the problem was the no-flush order in much of Evans. Residents and others in the
area could run the water but couldn’t send any down the drains because of the risk of sewer backups. That order affected
the Sunrise facility. The City of Evans placed porta potties all around town, in the no-flush areas that affected roughly
half the residents.
our 70,000-square foot clinic with 160-some exam rooms,” Moran said. “That’s our largest clinic. So about
400 people a day are served there and many of them from Evans. There were seven porta-potties out, but how were we doing to
wash our hands? How are you go to get urine specimens? How are you going to sterilize the equipment? So we convened on Saturday,
started putting those plans in place for Monday.
“We definitely had to be open. We didn’t really know how far the scope of
the damage was. But we knew people were going to be in need of clinical care and in need of medicine. If their house got damaged,
what happened to their medicine, for instance if they had hypertension or diabetes.”
So at the Monfort Family Clinic, workers used hand
sanitizer and placed buckets in sinks, taking them outside to dump when necessary. Sterilized instruments were brought in
from other Sunrise facilities.
At the time, FEMA had set up a command central at the Evans recreation center.
“By Thursday, everybody was on
edge again, so we were bringing in food to keep people’s morale up. By Friday we had served about 1,000 people at the
clinic, and that’s about half of what we normally do. But still, no water down the drains, and in a medical clinic that
was hard. We’re a port in a storm on a daily basis for people who have a lot of problems that are happening to them.
We had to stay open.”
By the next Monday, when the no-flush order was lifted, the clinic operations were back to what passed for
* * *
Weld County United Way was involved from the start and eventually in multiple ways.
the non-profit organization’s president and CEO, noted that United Way managed the “211” outlet for non-emergency
calls in Weld County and redirection from 911. United Way staffers experienced in emergency response were called to the emergency
operation center in Greeley.
The focus quickly shifted to raising money for a “Weld Recovers” fund, a joint venture with
the Community Foundation.
“We decided that what had
happened during the Windsor tornado was that we had a fund and they had a fund,” Truswell said. “What we found
out was there unfortunately was some duplication. So we came to an agreement that we would work together. No matter where
a person donated it was going to go to the Weld Recovers fund.
“We raised $2 million in a couple of months. Maybe a quarter went to to help
for some of the things like gas vouchers and vouchers to get clothing. We didn’t want to duplicate what the American
Red Cross and others were doing but wanted to try and complement that.
“The Community Foundation doesn’t have as many staff
because they’re primarily accepting donations. We accept a lot of direct service programs, so we have higher manpower.
We took on the role of not only accepting donations but making decisions on applications. Our office was kind of crazy for
a few weeks. We could have 50 households in our building seeking help and applying.”
Eventually, the goal was for the Wed Recovers fund
to provide relief as the last resort, when governmental or social agency help wasn’t available. There were many meetings
of representatives from various agencies, making sure there wasn’t duplication, yet also that helped reached those who
was the New Normal,” Truswell said.
Five years later, the response to the 2013 flooding is the model that can be used for future disasters.
be heartbreaking if it wasn’t,” she said.