Thursday, September 12, 2013

Cycling in Boulder County Flooding

The last several days I have bemoaned all of the rain we're currently experiencing on the front range of Colorado. There are lots of areas in this country that receive huge amounts of rainfall on a regular basis. This part of Colorado is not one of them. For the most part, I think of this area as a desert - a really high, tree-lined, pretty-in-the-Spring desert. If it does rain, it's for a total of about 10-15 minutes during the summer months. It's usually on the hottest of days and we all look toward the sky, thanking the heavens for a little bit of relief from the heat. The current happenings have well-surpassed these more typical, quick, summer rain sessions. Our city is cut in half at the moment because of flooding. Those on the upper side of town (literally, as it is at a higher spot) seem to be okay, but those on the lower half (again, physically - I'm not making any socio-economic points here, I promise) are without power and are flooding.
One of our kickboxing instructors took this photo early this morning. The situation has become worse since this time.
The ground is saturated, and we still have a projected three more days of rain. Main Street is collapsing, as the river has risen so high that the asphalt on the bridge is now crumbling. When Sam left for work this morning, I was concerned because although I was fairly certain he'd make it into work, I wasn't convinced that getting home would be as easy to do. After a couple of hours at work, they decided to shut down business for the day and sent everyone home, but, as I had predicted, the roads north and south were now completely closed off to traffic. After spending an hour and a half attempting to get the 9 miles home, Sam decided to park the car and walk.

The local paper has posted the video above and others like it showing just how much flooding is actually taking place. It's absolute madness for a place that is used to feet of snow in the winter, but not this amount of rain in the summer. It's easy to get caught up in all of the craziness, and as I've expressed, even for the inhabitants of our small home, it has been a bit insane... but, it's not all chaos and flooding.
Yesterday, the ground was just starting to become saturated - though that has changed significantly in the last 24 hours.
Yesterday, I left the house just as the rainfall was increasing. I just couldn't stand the idea of not riding anymore and since the weather-jockey's are anticipating several more days of this, I figured I might as well get out and attempt to ride in the mess of things. The ride yesterday was short, but pleasant. At just under 20 miles, it was long enough to feel that I wasn't missing out (at least not much).
Most of what I traveled was dirt/gravel roads. Perhaps not my brightest move because the ground was quickly becoming over-saturated, but I managed to make it back to paved roads without issue. I thought it would be enough to get me through to the end of this seemingly never-ending storm, but when I woke up this morning, I saw no reason not to venture out again.

I put out a photo and message to friends... "If I'm not back in two hours, you'll know I died doing something I enjoy! :O)" While I don't want to make light of a situation that is actually quite serious and even a bit scary, I don't want to live in fear, nor do I want to miss out on potential training rides with a big ride headed my way in just a couple of weeks. I decided to head out and if things got too bad, I'd simply turn around and come home.
The roads were wet, it rained and hailed on me as I rode, but I managed to pick areas that weren't experiencing the level of flooding that is taking place through much of the county and region. In the photo above, it looks as though I'm just out on a rainy day for a little ride.

One of the things that stood out to me during the last two days of riding is how non-special it really felt. There have been a few individuals who like to state that I am a crazy person for going out in this weather, or that think I am some sort of near super-hero for "braving" the elements. The reality is that it felt good to be out. I didn't do anything stupid, or head in a direction that I knew ahead of time would be unsafe. I didn't take a bike with slick tires that would go super fast, but rather one with knobby tires that has some weight to it and could handle potential, small hazards on the roadways. I got wet, yes. Many of us are ill-prepared for rain here, and I am no exception, but it really didn't bother me until I returned home and realized that I was quite cold from getting soaked through.
I was amazed to discover that no one was out riding - at least not the back roads. All of the usual racers who whiz by me were nowhere to be found. With the exception of a few cars that were likely just trying to get home, I didn't have to share the road with anyone. It was a really wonderful time to take in the beauty that has been created because of all this rain. It's certainly brought destruction with it, but to be able to still see green this time of year in this area is quite a treat.
Rain gear is en-route as I type, but by the time it arrives, the weather will likely have returned to a more normal state and this crazy flood that has happened will be a thing of the past. Although some will probably remember it for the pandemonium it created, I plan to keep memories of this storm as a time during which I got to ride the roads without traffic, to be the "crazy girl" who "toughed" it out riding through the storm, as a time when I got to appreciate all that is truly around me. I liked being that person... maybe I'll bring her along with me after the rain passes and normal life resumes.


  1. Looks like a typical winter bike ride near Seattle, minus any hills. Just kidding, our rains are usually light drizzle. You must have cleaned up before the face pic, as when I ride in the rain sans fenders, I have a skunk stripe on my back and my face!

    1. I definitely had a stripe all up the back of me, but somehow my face survived unscathed. Probably because the hailing hadn't started quite yet at this point.

  2. Actually when we got the rain, to me, it felt like ..Vancouver BC rains that they get in the winter. Just long and steady. I lived in Vancouver for 8 yrs. before moving to Calgary, Alberta. We just had a major river flood late this June. I was one of the evacuees.

    Yes, cycling for first few wks. post-flood is shorter and sobering to see devastation in one's own neighbourhood. Stay safe.

    1. What a great post, and interesting to read about the effects the flooding had on others as well. It's amazing that a flood can have such devastation on one portion of a city and not as much on another (or virtually, leave it untouched by the damage). Hopefully, things are returning to normal for you now.

      By the way, "sobering" is the perfect word, I think, to describe all of this.

  3. Jean,

    Its erie how similar our situation is to yours (smaller scale for our town). I'm sure GE shares my sentiment in feeling more "free" on a bike right now, but its a newer feeling for me, as I'm the one that commutes in the car most of the time. It was like the instant everything flooded, your car became a handicap. I'ts made me really consider bike commuting more often. Will we ever totally drop cars? maybe not, but it would be cool to only see the 1972 beetle sitting out front...


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