Heroes of the Colorado floods: Tales of bravery by neighbors and strangers
As rescue operations continue in Colorado, evacuees and others say they are stunned and humbled by selfless acts by legions of people. The aid ranges from dramatic rescues in flooded streets to potluck dinners to feed a waterlogged community.
In one Boulder, Colo., neighborhood, 40 friends, neighbors, and strangers worked together for three days to keep a house from flooding. In the mountain community of Pinewood Springs, Colo., residents kept one another’s spirits up – and kept one another fed – by donating food and organizing nightly potlucks during the five days before the helicopters came to evacuate them.Skip to next paragraph
In Pictures Weather extremes 2013
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In the midst of destruction and loss stemming from the Colorado floods, stories of heroism and community abound. Everyone has a tale to tell, from the neighbor who swam across flooded roads to help a family in Lyons get out, to the Boulder residents who worked together at 2 in the morning to rescue a woman stranded in her car that had been washed away by a flash flood.
Residents organized, going door to door to assess people’s needs and sending people who had less damage to help those with more.
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While official evacuation centers aren’t ready to take donations or volunteers, grass-roots efforts are springing up – via social media, listservs, and informal networks – to match people who can help with donations, housing space, or physical labor to families who are desperate for assistance. A group calling itself the “Boulder Mud Slingers” organized rapidly, sending volunteers to places where manpower was needed.
“It’s kind of inspiring, and makes you realize how much you do have. If you didn’t have a community like that, what would you do?” says Heidi Bogetveit, who took shelter in a friend's house along with her husband, their two children, and six other people, when her Boulder ranch home flooded.
Later, those same friends organized two dozen extended family and friends to help haul all the ruined possessions out of Ms. Bogetveit’s home, as well as out of her parents’ flooded house next door.
“You saw random people you didn’t know throwing away everything that you owned, but I took a step back and looked around and I was amazed at how many people were there that I knew, and didn’t know, and I found it inspiring,” says Bogetveit, who says she doesn’t know how she would have tackled the project without the help.
When the first floods hit and certain roads were cut off, some neighbors took on the role of first responder: In the wee hours of Thursday morning, Nate and Randi Foster noticed lights at the end of their driveway on the western edge of Boulder, and realized a car was stuck in the floodwaters – with an elderly woman inside.
The car was on its side, “sitting on a rock in a tree” in the midst of what had become a fast-moving river, says Nate Foster. Along with the woman's husband and one other neighbor, the Fosters spent several hours outside, gathering rope and waiting until they saw an opportunity for Nate to work his way over to the car and help the woman and her cat escape through the hatchback.