residents wait for the Army to remove the trash from their "berms."
It is one thing to hear about floods, but another to learn what it is like to experience one. So what is a flood like? For the next month, students from all over the world will be writing to INFOCUS with their experiences.
Our newest letter comes from Megan. She describes the traumatic moment when the Army finally removed the trash from her street.
Mandy Striegl, a college student writes about what it was like in Fort Collins, Colorado when a flash flood turned her movie night into an horror story.
Sara, from Grand Forks, talks about what it was like to live in an airport hangar.
Woody Renn in the Czech Republic. Woody lived in Los Angeles, but he is now in Moravia, a part of the Czech Republic, helping the thousands of people who were left homeless by the Oder River flood.
I was spending the summer at Colorado State University participating in an undergraduate research program with a dozen or so other students from across the nation. We were having the time of our lives hiking, mountain biking, fishing, and backpacking all over the area.
There were only a few of us from Colorado, so it was an unbelievable experience seeing the others faces light up at the summit of their first "fourteener" (a mountain 14,000 feet above sea level). In a way it was like a summer camp with work on the side. We all lived together in the same dormitory, ate at the same time in the same place, worked in the same building. So at the time of the floods, we had more than sufficiently bonded in a tight friendship.
"By late afternoon it was raining steadily."
The day of the flood started off abnormal for Colorado in late July. In other words, it was cloudy. By noon it was drizzling and by late afternoon it was raining steadily. My two friends Anne (from Virginia) and Jeff (from Illinois) and I were heading over to another companion's home about 2 miles away from campus to snuggle up to a movie. When we left campus it was raining steadily, but not exceedingly hard.
In the 5 minutes it took us to get from our dorm to the Subway restaurant about 3 blocks from our dorm, the rain became sheets of water. Anne and I sat in the car as Jeff ran in to get a sandwich. We watched cars plow through the ever-deepening puddles on Shields Street, which runs along the north end of campus. The splashes they created were at least twice as high as the cars themselves, and in some places, the water level was to the base of the wheel-wells. We headed north, and up the hill (luckily), to our friends' house. Jeff parked his car along the edge of the street where the water was rushing at incredible speeds.
Movie night postponed.
We sat inside watching our movie and listening to the rain for about an hour before we realized that what was rushing stream of water had become a virtual river and was gushing half way up the side of Jeff's car and in through the doors. My friend Amy (the fearless one from New York) ran to its rescue, but it was too late. The interior contained a good 2 inches of water already.
By now the movie was no longer of interest, and Jeff and Amy Jim decided to venture out into the storm. They ended up travelling from house to house for about 2 hours, helping people carry their valuables out of basements and garages to high ground. Meanwhile, Anne and I attended to the water streaming into Jim's basement. By the time they returned the rain had begun to let up and the water was slowly receding. So we decided to head home, in the hopes of a hot shower, clean clothes and a warm bed.
"Dark and unbelievably quiet."
It had poured down rain unbelievably hard for over 4 hours straight that night, but still, none of us expected to find the Colorado State University campus in the disarray it was in. As we rounded the corner to our dorm, we noticed the eerie strobe light flashing of the emergency lights in the newly remodeled library. And then we saw the water. Jeff parked his car a block from our dorm, and we started heading towards it. It was completely dark, and still, and unbelievably quiet. The water was up to our waists in places, but we had to tread through to reach our rooms. The rain had pounded through the roof of our dorm so the third and second floors, where we lived, were destroyed.
Luckily no one lost anything valuable, only clothes and bedding were soaked and some precious photographs of summer adventures with new-found friends were ruined. We were moved to the other wing of the dorm, where the residential advisors had provided us clean beds, but unfortunately, no electricity or hot water for showers for the next three days. By the time we got semi-settled, it was 1:30 am. We were, of course, wired, so we set out to the parking lot to bail out our cars, which had received a generous soaking. An hour or so later that was finished, so we headed out on a walk to assess the damages.
Initially, we had thought we had it the worst, but we were very wrong. A block away, Lake Street (how ironic) was flooded at least five feet and cars were completely submerged. University apartment complexes were under water right up to the base of the first floor windows. We traveled on through water as high as our knees at its lowest towards College Avenue, which runs along the east edge of campus. Our stomachs dropped as we stumbled across the trailer park that had been completely annihilated by the excessive rain and mud. Homes were overturned, and in shambles and we shuddered to think about what the determined rescue crews would find.
Dramatic train derailment.
Suddenly, we heard the most horrible screeching sound and the air filled with the smell of burning brakes. A train, attempting to pass through Fort Collins had derailed along College Ave. near the center of campus. Fortunately, no one was hurt (to my knowledge), so we spent the next hour watching the crews get it back on track. I had never seen such disaster in my life. My thoughts drifted to the people in Grand Forks ND, who endured tragedy of this sort for weeks. It's amazing how something like a flood can bring things into perspective. Before we ventured out on our walk, we were all distraught at the thought of our cars being totaled and our clothes being ruined. But to see the demolished homes in the trailer park and the debris from countless businesses on College Ave. brought me right back down to earth.
We spent the next day cleaning and moving our belongings to new rooms, and helping out around campus as much as we could. It is terrible to think of what CSU really lost in this ordeal; it was far more than money. When I left, estimates were exceeding 125 million dollars in damage, but that damage was to irreplaceable items. Thousands of books, and the college's personal research archives, a new set of uniforms for the marching band, and six grand pianos. The bookstore was completely under water and classes were to start in less than a month.
Important lessons learned.
Fortunately, the loss of the most valuable entity, life, was not extreme in the Ft. Collins flood of 1997. My heart and my prayers go out to all those who suffer the loss of loved ones. The flood made me realize what is really important in our lives, and it has nothing to do with the pair of Nikes that got trashed, the VCR that was shorted out, or my car that was totaled. Life has to do with strength, perseverance, and the ability to give and receive a helping hand.
Have you ever been in a flood? Click here to send us your story.