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Presentation by K7LNR on CO Flooding

posted Jan 9, 2014, 3:37 PM by Charles Boling   [ updated Jan 17, 2014, 10:33 AM ]

Our educational presentation on the 19th was given by Randy, K7LNR.  He told us about his trip to Salina, Colorado last September to help friends after the flooding.  The storm dropped up to 17” of rain over 3 days in some areas, and destroyed or damaged nearly 20,000 homes in 17 counties.

Randy had intended to spend three days there, but with the extent of the damage, he ended up staying ten. (See the pictures?  He said 8 miles of that canyon looked like that.)

(Click photos to see larger versions)

This was not the first natural disaster this tiny community had experienced – some of their homes had been destroyed a few years before by a wildfire (and, unfortunately, some of those same homes didn't fare well in the flood) – so the residents were better prepared to deal with it than average.  They had 72-hour kits, FRS radios for communicating amongst each other, and other good things to have in the event of an emergency.

People with preexisting medical conditions were evaporated before the flooding closed off the area.  It was wise planning; the severe weather kept helicopters grounded later on.  After the 2nd day of flooding, when it became obvious that property would be in jeopardy, the residents took more radical protective steps such as turning off electricity so that Really Bad Things™ didn't happen when the waters got to that point.

Once the waters began to recede, the process of digging out began.  Randy's friends were fortunate; while the area around their home was destroyed, the structure was left standing, and flood waters didn't quite get inside.  They were able to unbury the propane tank and hook it back up, so they had heat and cooking ability. 

Many of the residents likewise enjoyed one of the sometime-benefits of rural living; because the tiny community is so isolated, they're mostly self-contained as far as utilities go.  Whereas a municipal water and sewer system would have been wiped out by the flooding, making it difficult to stay in their homes, their own cistern still had good water, and their septic system contained the outflow as designed.

There were plenty of lessons to be gained by the observant, from both the preparation and recovery.  As an assisting visitor, it was important that Randy bring with him an appropriate collection of tools and material, because there was no running down to the corner store!  Hand tools were great assets, esp. since there was no fuel available for the first five days.  That cheap pry-bar – the $3 Harbor-Freight special?  It's a great all-purpose digging tool to throw in your go-kit, and you won't be heartbroken if it doesn't make it back out.  If you're going to be mucking around after a flood, it's mighty nice to have boots, and your 72 hour kits may prove to be more useful if you put them in waterproof containers that were tied to your house so they don't end up getting soaked or floating off.

Don't get too used to the idea of using VHF to pass traffic outside the disaster area; Randy found that there was a wide gulf between FRS radios and an HF rig that represented “no extra value”.  There was nobody to talk to on VHF packet; getting out of there really required HF capability.  Of course, have plenty of battery power if the occasion might call for a lot of radio communication.  Most of all, be ready to work!