In Colorado, survivors tell stories of rescue, heroes and ruin
- September 15, 2013 - 5:45 PM
ESTES PARK, Colo. – As people came down from the flooded foothills of the Colorado Rockies, they brought tales of dramatic rescues, heartbreaking loss and neighbors coming together to protect their families and homes. Here are a few of their stories:
Cat to the rescue
Jezebel the cat jumped on a sleeping Jon Johnson, batted his face and yowled until he woke up to find the Big Thompson River spilling into the cottages he and his wife, Deyn, rented to Estes Park visitors. They ran from cottage to cottage, knocking on doors and shouting to the sleeping occupants, “Purse! Keys! Medicine! Go!”
The water rose from Deyn Johnson’s shin to her knee in less than a minute. Everybody was safely evacuated before the river swept three of the cottages away and knocked three more on their sides.
She lamented the loss of the Whispering Pines cottages, which they have run since 1993, but praised Jezebel. “We had no warning other than the cat,” Johnson said. “She is going to be treated like a queen for the rest of her life.”
Didn’t sign up for this trip
Jerry Grove and Dorothy Scott-Grove’s vacation plans did not include this zip-line tour. Rescue crews evacuated the Cincinnati couple from their cabin in Glen Haven the only way they could — clinging to a wire line strung up over raging floodwaters.
The couple abandoned their car and most of their luggage, bringing only what they could carry in a backpack. After the husband and wife crossed the water, rescuers carried their two golden retrievers across on the zip line. On Sunday, they were figuring out how to get back to Ohio with no near-term hopes of retrieving their car.
Emma Hardy’s husband woke her up Wednesday night to say a well-loved neighbor had been killed by a mudslide that crushed his Jamestown home. From that point on, the 46-year-old artist and her family were in constant motion, knocking on doors and trying to get people out.
But within hours, a new, impassable river formed and bisected the town. “It was totally biblical,” Hardy said. “And then it just started getting worse and worse.”
They watched a 10-foot-high culvert smash their deck. By the time the rain slowed, the house was in the water, but, Hardy made sure to point out, “still standing.”
Like many Jamestown residents, Hardy said she did not begin to process the scale of the disaster until she was flying away from the town. “When you’re bailing out buckets of water, you’re not really thinking about anything. Now it’s starting to sink in.”
Students to the rescue
Residents along Gregory Creek near Boulder joined with students from the nearby University of Colorado in a frantic effort to save homes.
They raided each other’s yards for flagstones, filled garbage bags with sand and used whatever else they could to make berms and divert the water away from the houses. Along the alley, which had turned into a fast-moving river, they strung a rope so they could safely maneuver.
Many of the homes had basement flooding, and some kitchens were damaged, but all the houses remained intact.
© 2013 Star Tribune