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Estes Park Endures In Face Of Historic Flooding

Rain has finally begun to subside across areas ravaged by historic floods in Colorado. Some communities and residents remain cut off though with limited supplies due to washed out roads.

Estes Park is one of those communities. They lost their main route in and out of town when Highway 34 in the Big Thompson Canyon was washed away by the torrential waters.

Communications with Estes had been shattered until both phones and cell service were restored Sunday. AT&T bought in a mobile cell tower truck in order to breathe life into mobile phones. Internal communications in Estes Park have largely been through daily meetings held at Estes Town Hall and through the town’s Facebook page.

Credit Town of Estes Park
Map of the Estes Park 'No Flush' zone.

Like many other towns impacted by flood waters, infrastructure is compromised. Roads and bridges are damaged or washed out and sewers are strained. There is a ‘No Flush’ zone in Estes due to a broken sewer draining into a watershed. The zone is a limited area (see map) and residents in other areas on public sewer lines can resume normal use.

Fish Creek Road from U.S. 36 to Cheley camp is damaged and very unstable. Residents living to the east shouldn’t cross it, either by foot or vehicle. Other evacuation areas include the low-lying ares near all rivers from the U.S. 34/36 intersection heading west and down the Big Thompson and Fall Rivers into town.

The Highway 66 corridor beyond Aspen Brook/Dunraven Inn is also evacuated. Officials stress that you should evacuate if you feel unsafe. “Neighbors must help one another,” the town stated in a release.

KUNC spoke with Estes Park spokeswoman Kate Rusch about the current state of the town and how residents are coping being cut off by floodwaters. The following are highlights from that conversation.

Interview Highlights

What are we seeing right now in EstesPark?

“We’ve got rescue operations underway with officers out on ATV’s, getting back to those neighborhoods. Again, to the east of Fish Creek Road and trying to talk with people and explain to them the importance of going head and working with them to get evacuated.”
Fish Creek Road is one of the hardest hit areas in Estes, water was still actively flowing there as of Sunday.

“The issue is that it’s so difficult for people to leave their homes and not know when they can get back in. Our stance on this is it’s is better for them to go ahead and to get out and be safe and… wonder and wait to get back in to check on their home, than it is for them to be there for something to happen. Whether it’s tomorrow or in a month if we still can’t get to them and then we can’t provide them with emergency services. We do not want them to be in peril.”

Credit Karen Randinitis / used with permission
used with permission
Empty shelves at the Safeway in Estes, Sept. 14. Supplies are once again being delivered to town.

Are there still supplies and basics in Estes Park?

“We’re working on compiling lists of resources and we can tell everybody that there are deliveries coming in for fuel and food. So there is no need to be concerned about that. It’s taken a little bit, but we’re certainly not out of supplies.”

What roads are currently serving as access for Estes Park?

"At this point we have two ways to get in to and get out of Estes Park. We have some limited use of Highway 7 down through Nederland and out to Central City to I-70."

“We’re not inviting visitors to come back in. For their safety and for our infrastructure and resources it’s best for visitors to go ahead and go home now and let us recover. Residents can come back that way as well as deliveries and emergency services.”

“The same is true of Trail Ridge Road [in Rocky Mountain National Park]. That said, both of those highways at any point could be closed because of weather or more damage to the infrastructure.”

What is the mood in Estes Park?

“This is an event of historic proportions as we all know for so much of Colorado. Estes Park has seen its fair share of turmoil like this. We’re a resilient community… and so many people here band together to support. The outpouring of support in the community for fellow community members is absolutely astounding, amazing and heart-warming. That’s what is keeping all of us going right now.”

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