Fire and rain

Summer 2013 came in hot and ferocious and by September wildfire fears were washed away by the gallon.

I don’t think anyone expected the huge monsoon the blew into Colorado the night of September 12 and stayed until the 16th, dropping as much as 18 inches of rain on Boulder and dumping 7 inches of rain on the Bar B.

There are subtle things that weather forecasters say that if you pay attention you’ll know you’re in for it. Back in 1982 local forecasters called for the big snows that topped three feet in some places. Channel 9’s Kathy Sabine missed the harbingers of a humongous storm that dropped 52 inches of snow in its first go-round and then a foot of snow for eight Friday in a row graced Highlands Ranch in December 2006. I still love Kathy and believe her so when last week she casually mentioned a rather storm heading in from the Northwest I understand what she is saying. Sometimes it’s about listening rather than watching the weather report.

Let’s face it; Boulder got creamed. Estes Park, Lyons and Jamestown will take years to recover from the incredible destruction wrought across several counties. There simply wasn’t anywhere for the water to go except downhill.

I’ve lived in Colorado full-time since 1981 and have never seen that much water in Colorado before. Where I’m from, Seattle, heavy amounts of rain rarely ever cause such catastrophe but the Front Range isn’t used to deluges like that. I’ve heard some reports that if this monsoon flow had arrived when cold temperatures were back home in Colorado, Boulder would have been looking at almost 18 feet of snow.

Just a few months ago wildfire was such a huge concern and now no one is thinking about flames raging through the Colorado mountains.

I’ve thought about it and realize that the flood waters and subsequent destruction far outweigh what wildfire can do. People evacuated from small mountain towns may not see their (standing) homes until after this coming winter passes; roads are impassable and will require millions in repairs and construction. Bridges are gone, roads are washed out, houses destroyed first by water then by mold. In a fire possessions burn to ash but news photos shows mountains of ruined and discarded items parked at curbsides like some sick garage sale. Fire washes everything clean. Water’s influence burns the heart.

I’m luck at the Bar B – being on the top of a mountain means what my property can’t handle will roll downhill. All this rain is a boon for the well and I never saw more than a puddle or two during each torrential downpour. My land is so dry that any water disappears in a matter of minutes, literal minutes. I wish we in the mountain community would have been able to take on more water and spare some of our northern neighbors from the tragedy.

The problem is what’s left over runs downhill. It’s Mother Nature’s dichotomy – fire burns uphill; water flows downhill. Either way, she gets you, coming or going.

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