I suppose it’s mere coincidence that the title of this post sounds similar to the title of my last one “Unpersuaded” (though the meanings are much different). But given the extraordinary circumstances surrounding me right now, there’s not a better word to use–and it’s definitely appropriate to back off of theological and spiritual ramblings to talk about some very real stuff happening.
Unprecedented. It is a word that I have heard repeated numerous times on the local news here in Denver as we have watched the clouds rain historic amounts of water upon mountains and plains in a very short period of time. After historic drought, and consequently historic wildfires, we now have historic flooding.
In case any were wondering, my family and I are fine. Our neighborhood has gotten off fairly easy with rainfall amounts compared to the rest, and the nearest creek has remained in its bounds. But I only have to drive about a half hour in several different directions in order to find devastation–and because the situation is still so unpredictable, they’re advising people not to do that.
If you’ve been watching this on the news the past couple of days, let me put in context some of the photos and videos you’ve been seeing:
1. Multiple areas around northeastern Colorado have received 12-18 inches of rain in the past several days, including areas around Boulder and Aurora. In our semi-arid climate, that’s the equivalent of an entire year’s worth of rainfall. Considering that we were just about at average for rainfall this year, that amounts to double the yearly average. (My neighborhood received about 5 inches, by comparison.)
2. Twelve to eighteen inches is enough to cause flooding in most parts of the world, but especially so in a drier climate where the soil is not accustomed to taking in that much water. This is the kind of rainfall you expect with a tropical storm in the deep south; for Denver, the effects were even more intense.
3. Not only did it rain that much on the plains, where Denver sits; it also rained that much in the mountains above us. All that water has to go someplace, and so it’s flowing down the creeks back into more populated areas. (That accounts for the videos of raging rapids washing roads away and overturning vehicles, etc.) So not only is this area suffering from its own flooding rains, but now from the drainage from flooding rains in the mountains, as well.
4. The flooding has been greatly complicated, especially in the foothills, in the areas that suffered from wildfires during the past two years. This is because in the burn scar areas, there are not enough plants or trees to keep the soil anchored during the rains. So heavy rains on these areas are causing mudslides and rockslides, as well as causing the the water to carve new paths down the mountains into areas not accustomed to it.
5. Most of the creeks in this area flow into one or two rivers heading east. So now on the northern and eastern plains between here and Nebraska, all those flooding creeks are sending water into the South Platte River, causing historic flooding. Because so much of that region is flat, there are places now being flooded that have never seen flood waters since we started keeping track of such things.
Unprecedented. That’s the right word for it.
The crazy thing is, no one really saw this coming. We knew it was going to be a rainy week, but at the beginning of this week, none of the forecasters were predicting flooding rains of this magnitude because they simply hadn’t happened before–not like this. No one could have anticipated the amount moisture that was being fed into these slow moving storms, or that they would stall out the way they did. The mountains really do a number on weather prediction around here. And so in just a few days, with little or no warning, we have experienced in some parts of our community what experts are calling a 500-year flood. The wildfires took hundreds of homes; the floodwaters are now affecting thousands of homes.
And it’s not over yet. Every couple of hours, it seems, we get reports of new neighborhoods being evacuated, or the number of those unaccounted for goes up by a hundred people (the actual death toll so far is remarkably low, but since this event began, there are a lot of areas where the authorities simply haven’t been able to make an assessment yet). We’re being told we have one more day of rain before the system finally heads out.
It’s remarkable how quickly things can change. I suppose that is a lesson worth learning.
For me, the past few days have underscored just how important it is to have an anchor for the soul beyond this present world–because things can literally change in an instant. We simply cannot put our trust in our circumstances, or nature, or government, or indeed anything in this present world. Our faith needs to be in something beyond this realm. I have been leaning into Him more these days, entrusting myself and my family to God, even as I have watched the devastation around me. I am thankful that I can do this.
If you’re inclined to pray, please pray for the people of Denver, Boulder, Longmont, Ft. Collins and the other communities of northern Colorado.