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With 'Islands' Reconnected, Lyons Looks To Flood Recovery

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Maeve Conran
/
KGNU

Post-flood Lyons is a different place than what the foothills community normally is. The population of just over 2000 people has been replaced by National Guard and crews working to repair services and helicopters land on Main Street with evacuees from neighboring canyons.

Along with several communities in the foothills and mountain, like Jamestown and Estes Park, Lyons was completely cut off by the rising floodwaters. Roads and bridges were damaged and the landscape altered.

As the unrelenting rain fell, the St. Vrain grew a mind of its own. On the south side of Lyons, the river no longer runs under the McConnell Drive bridge, it has cut a new channel for itself.

“It has completely washed out the bridge and the road,” said town administrator Victoria Simonsen. “It has left this vast expanse of rocks and sand and broken asphalt.”

Town engineers tell Simonsen that the Federal Emergency Management Agency will now have to remap the river and redraw the floodplain. Those new plans will be based on this new flood event – not the plans of old.

“The town has always planned for a 100-year incident and we had a map for the 500 year incident,” explained Simonsen.  “This exceeded even the 500 year floodplain.”

The St. Vrain runs right through heart of Lyons and as the water swelled over the banks the town was divided up into ‘islands.’ Residents were isolated on each island, and to work to communicate with each other. Relying on teams setup by the town, sometimes hiking over the mountain to get to another island.

“We held meetings on each island, I actually accessed those by going 4-wheeling through water to get to them and update them on what we were trying to do help them on the other side,” said Simonsen.

As The Times-Call writes, help eventually arrived Saturday from the National Guard once they were able to shore up a bridge into town.

The waters would recede, eventually reconnecting the islands. All of the individual parts assembled again as a whole. “We’re reconnected as a community and ready to start recovering,” said Simonsen.

Simonsen is estimating that maybe 20 percent of the homes in Lyons are lost and FEMA still has to complete their damage assessment of the town. As of Tuesday morning though, residents were already registering for passes to get back into town The Times-Call says.

As for the city?

“Our initial estimates have been that this is going to be in the tens of millions to recover from, just the infrastructure component,” said Simosen. The town’s insurance agent has already visited and started the damage assessment. “They said that this is the biggest claim they have ever seen.”

Jim Hill contributed to this story.

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