Damage assessments underway in Colorado as flooding shifts to Nebraska

By September 19, 2013
(Photo courtesy EFCA)

(Photo courtesy EFCA)

USA (MNN) — The downpours may be over, but the flooding isn’t. It’s moving downstream.

The overall flood zone ultimately grew to encompass 17 Colorado counties, and the high water is rolling toward Nebraska.

What’s left is a new landscape of wreckage: destroyed homes, waashed out highways, and twisted debris.

The rebuilding effort will cost hundreds of millions of dollars. Federal funds are coming since President Barack Obama’s disaster declaration. An initial $5 million has been pledged, although how much more will be needed remains the variable since many areas remain inaccessible and the continuing emergency prevents a thorough understanding of the devastation’s scope.

State officials have put initial estimates at more than 19,000 homes damaged or destroyed throughout the flooded areas. County officials have started their own damage tallies: 654 miles of roads in an area bordering Wyoming, 150 miles of roads in the Boulder County roads foothills, along with hundreds of bridges, culverts, and canals.

Amidst the rubble sits Whispering Pines Evangelical Free Church. Pastor Brian Young says, “It’s kind of the proverbial trying to plug all the holes in the dike while it’s springing leaks everywhere. That’s kind of the feeling you get right now.”

The church is serving the Coal Creek Canyon community, which straddles three counties. “Coal Creek Canyon is not even listed as a city on a state map. It’s more of an unincorporated scattering of houses up in the mountains.” The trouble is, Young explains: they’re isolated. The main artery out of the community is State Highway 72. “The State Highway, we’re told, could take two to three months to repair; it’s that extensive, the damage. The second big challenge we’re facing as a community is that the natural gas piping that comes up along the entire canyon is damaged.”

In a community of 5000 residents, most do not have heat or hot water. “We’re told it could be one to four months before that’s repaired, so we’re without heat for our houses, we’re without hot water for showers, those sorts of things. We’re trying to find out information as quickly as possible. We’re looking into conversion to propane.” With winter coming, says Young, there are more questions than answers. “November, we sometimes get freezing temperatures, and certainly into December. So we’re very concerned about that.”

Meanwhile, the commute to school and work has been tripled, from 30 minutes to 90 minutes–each way. And that’s without snow. Families are making hard decisions to have children stay in town with friends closer to schools, and husband or wife to stay closer to their work places.

The other critical issues are: food and water. Being cut off means getting supplies up the

(Photo courtesy EFCA)

(Photo courtesy EFCA)

mountain using an alternate route will be much more difficult. However, Whispering Hills EFC has had a “Pastor’s Pantry” ministry for six years. Young says they’ve thrown open the doors every day this week for the residents. “We’ve gotten a lot of great donations of water, milk, and perishable items, in addition to the canned food and the bread that we normally offer. That’s been one way [we’re helping]. We’re also trying to coordinate volunteer teams to go around and fix people’s driveways.”

Young notes an interesting point: “Our church used to be called ‘The Church of the Open Doors’ before it became Whispering Pines Church, and it very much communicates the sentiment of our church: to be open to everyone and be light and grace in our community.”

Pray for relational connections in the community, Young urges. “One way people can pray is that we would be true representative of Christ in our Coal Creek Canyon community as we reach out to people in need, that they would have a taste of Christ.” Pray for the church leaders in Colorado, like Young, many of whom are dealing with their own personal crises while helping their flock take one day at a time.

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