Now that the flood waters are starting to recede, community members across northeast Colorado are trying to get back home and begin the long process of picking up the pieces.
Knowing where to start can be hard, but the financial burden that people are facing is significant as well.
At this point, the damage incurred is still unknown, but many expect the damage to be significant.
“The Colorado Department of Agriculture reminds agricultural operations that due to possible water contamination, agricultural workers who come in contact with such waters should practice good personal hygiene and wash their hands frequently with soap and clean warm water. CDA is assisting the State Emergency Operations Center with livestock evacuation needs. Livestock appear to be relatively safe but there are a tremendous amount of crops under water. It is too early to anticipate the amount of crop loss and how this will affect agriculture,” the Colorado Department of Agriculture stated on their website.
Knowing what resources are available and how to best utilize those resources is important in natural disaster recovery.
Gov. John Hickenlooper signed an executive order to declare a disaster emergency due to the flooding affecting 14 counties: Adams, Arapahoe, Broomfield, Boulder, Denver, El Paso, Fremont, Jefferson, Larimer, Logan, Morgan, Pueblo, Washington and Weld.
The order authorizes $6 million for the Disaster Emergency Fund from the General Fund to pay for flood response and recovery.
“Beginning on Sept. 11, 2013, heavy rainfall fell west of Interstate 25 from south of Colorado Springs to the Wyoming border. The greatest impact is in Boulder County, where up to eight inches of rain fell. While authorities cannot conduct damage assessments until the rainfall subsides and the flooding recedes, known consequences are three fatalities, three injuries, damage to a natural gas distribution pipeline, power outages, at least two structures destroyed, water damage to approximately 40 buildings on the University of Colorado-Boulder campus, isolation of the towns of Estes Park, Jamestown, Lyons and Nederland, damage to U.S. Highway 34, closure of numerous roads and damage to the Town of Lyons wastewater treatment system,” the Sept. 13 order stated.
Since that time, more fatalities and injuries have been reported.
The declarations from the federal level of emergency allows for money to flow into the state from the federal level to help air those affected. The Federal Emergency Management Agency and Colorado Division of Homeland Security and Emergency Management announced that 12 additional counties were added to the Sept. 12 presidential emergency disaster declaration for the Colorado flooding in Boulder, El Paso and Larimer counties.
The additional counties include Adams, Arapahoe, Broomfield, Clear Creek, Denver, Fremont, Jefferson, Morgan, Logan, Pueblo, Washington and Weld counties.
Emergency assistance is designed to supplement state and local efforts to provide life-saving and life-sustaining measures to areas affected by the severe storms, flooding, landslides and mudslides.
Direct federal assistance includes a range of assistance undertaken by federal partners, including urban search and rescue teams, air operations, food, water, cots, generators, and emergency flood control measures.
In a separate action on Saturday, Sept. 14, President Barack Obama also declared a major disaster declaration for Boulder County. The President’s declaration makes federal assistance available to individuals in Boulder County for temporary housing and home repairs, low-cost loans to cover uninsured property losses, and other programs to help individuals and business owners in their recovery.
Federal funding also is available to state and eligible local governments and certain private nonprofit organizations on a cost-sharing basis for emergency work in Boulder County. Federal funding is also available on a cost-sharing basis for hazard mitigation measures statewide.
W. Craig Fugate, administrator for the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s Department of Homeland Security named Michael J. Hall as the federal coordinating officer for federal recovery operations in the affected area.
FEMA said that damage surveys are continuing in other areas, and more counties and additional forms of assistance may be designated after the assessments are fully completed.
“The Department of Homeland Security, Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), is authorized to provide appropriate assistance for required emergency measures, authorized under Title V of the Stafford Act, to save lives and to protect property and public health and safety, or to lessen or avert the threat of a catastrophe in the designated areas,” a notice to the governor’s office says.
The disaster declaration triggers the release of federal funds to help with emergency protective measures. Additional support may be made available at a later date when damage assessment can be done.
Farmers and ranchers also have several other programs they can turn to for help. The USDA encourages farmers, ranchers, producers, landowners and rural communities in the Presidentially declared disaster areas to contact their local USDA Farm Service Agency Service Center to report damages to crops or livestock; their local Rural Development office for housing, business or community assistance information and/or their local Natural Resources Conservation Service office for help with debris removal.
Crop producers should make sure to be in contact with their local FSA agents, to find out if their crops are covered by crop insurance. There are other federal assistance programs available through FSA to help both farmers and ranchers as well.
Roadway damage will be handled by the state.
The preliminary damage assessment of the state highway system is not complete. The damage is severe and extensive. More than 200 lane miles of state highway are damaged or impacted by the floods and 50 bridges are destroyed and damaged. The Federal Highway Administration made $35 million in “Quick Release” emergency fund relief available, and the CDOT Transportation Commission has allocated $100 million to begin initial repairs.
“With winter on the horizon, we will be restoring routes to communities that currently have limited access,” said CDOT Executive Director Don Hunt. “Over the next 60 days, our IR Force, with help from the contracting community, National Guard and our state and federal partners, will focus on removing debris and building temporary roads to improve access to as many impacted routes as possible. It is imperative that we restore as much highway infrastructure as possible in the next two to three months.” ❖