The Fort Collins Flood

Neil & Cathy were in the path of the flash flood in Ft. Collins. He writes:

Date: Thu, 21 Aug 1997 08:53:00 -0600
From: "L. Neil Smith" (
To: "Ken L. Holder" (
Subject: Re: Concerned Fans Need an Update

Dear Ken --

Thanks for asking after us. Cathy, Ryllie, and I are just fine, although our outlook -- especially on the weather -- may never be the same again. Every time it starts to rain, we worry that the whole mess will begin all over, even though we know that the original flood was, at the least, a 50-year event.

To recapitualte briefly, we were in the path of what's been described as a four-foot wall of water (doesn't sound like much, does it?) that reportedly swept from the CSU campus east on Plum (for those who know Fort Collins) and then around Eastdale where we live. The night of the flood we were awakened at 1:40 AM by our next door neighbors who had water coming in their front door.

Many thanks to Jan and Janice Cipra, who may possibly have saved our lives.

We had water sluicing in our front door, as well, from what looked like about a six-inch head outside our living room which is two steps lower than the rest of the house. At that point we had five feet of water in the basement stairwell, and when I stepped out onto the small concrete porch outside my office, the water was within a couple of inches of coming into the main house -- although it never made it. We were an island!

We woke Rylla, gathered up a few things (including our two cats in pillow cases), and, since we couldn't reach our Subaru parked out front and were pretty sure it wouldn't start anyway, I called my brother who came as close to the house as he could, about 75 yards. We shut off the power and abandoned the house by walking down the front sidewalk in knee-to-hip-deep water, and wading to his waiting van. I carried the cats, Cathy a few possessions, and Jan Cipra carried my daughter on his back.

Most of the rest of town turned out to be relatively dry, not counting the trailer park where the five deaths occurred, and isolated spots like our neighborhood. Many people were unfortunate enough to have basements and living rooms full of raw sewage. Unable to sleep, once we were established at my mom's house, Cathy and I walked half a block to the CSU campus where the Oval drive was under at least six feet of water. We were told that students had been kayaking and scuba diving there a little earlier.

The next morning, not knowing what to expect, we walked eight blocks to our little house and discovered that the water in the living room had just missed the electrical outlets and had filled the basement up through its ceiling but not quite to the subflooring of the main part of the house. The car started on the first try and it was almost comical watching gallons of water spewing from the tailpipe like in a cartoon. We moved computers and firearms over to my mom's place.

The next dozen days are sort of a blur. Cathy thinks she did 70 loads of laundry in the local laundromat. The first thing you noticed about the dirty clothes, our house, and the neighborhood was an unpleasantly earthy smell that wasn't quite that of the sewer. We worked from as early as we could get up until it was dark. We threw out tons of carpet, my favorite couch, and plenty of other stuff. We got to know our neighbors in a way we never had before. A local church (Trinity Lutheran) and the hospital (Poudre Valley) sent food over several times via Arla Simms, a neighborhood volunteer, and we all had meals out in the street and then rolled our sleeves up and went back to work.

Many thanks, as well, to my mom, Marie Smith, who put up with our company for two weeks, and to our friend Roger Owen who helped us reclaim our home. We just got the power on in the basement again yesterday, having had to have it rewired. It started out as four rooms, but we spent two weeks lugging "lawn and garden" bags of sodden sheetrock and beaver board (not to mention 30 years of newspapers and magaizines) upstairs and out onto the driveway where it eventually got picked up by the city.

I believe the final count was around 450 bags. Although two previous loads were picked up by volunteers, at its greatest extent, Mount Eastdale was 33 feet long, six feet wide, and five feet tall. Again, that doesn't sound like much, does it?

Somewhere about the 150th bag, I bruised a lumbar disk, the most painful thing I believe I've ever experienced, and extremely preoccupying. On top of that, just like "the ones that Mother gives you", the painkiller that was prescribed for me didn't do anything at all. Thanks to alternating aspirin and Tylenol ever two hours (an old nursely trick) and megadosing vitamin E, I've started feeling better over the last couple of days.

All in all, we were extremely lucky. The water drained away mostly by itself; I like the basement better without walls and ceiling, people and cats survived and flourished, both computers are alive and well, and not one firearm was killed or injured in the making of this epic. We did lose loading equipment, but that's a small thing compared to the way it might have been.

I guess that's all for now. I know I've left out a great deal I'll remember as soon as I hit "Send". The Libertarian Enterprise will return this weekend and be followed by another issue in just a few days. I'm back online but won't be as active as usual until next week.

Thank you, Rick Tompkins, for keeping everybody posted. And thank you, everyone who wrote or called, especially those who volunteered help in a dozen different forms. You can't know how grateful I am to all of you, or how grateful I am that we didn't really need help. I'm sorry we've been out of touch, but that will change as the next few days go by.

It is the nature of American politics that clarity is considered harsh and uncompromising. -- George L. O'Brien

Date: Wed, 03 Sep 1997 15:29:41 -0600
From: "L. Neil Smith" <>
Subject: Re: Unfinished Business


I'm a little strained because it turns out we had another casualty of the flood. When we trapped the cats in our bedroom so the electricians rewiring the basement wouldn't let them out, my little girl was "babysitting" them. Our bed is 48" high, due to three sets of underdrawers, and during the afternoon, she fell off one of the stepladders, hurting her left arm. She cried a little (unusual for her) but then seemed okay.

That was more than a week ago. A couple of days ago, her arm began to swell, so we took her to the doc today. X-rays showed a diagonal break right through the radius which she never complained about.

I have a Klingon kid.

She's just fine, now, with a fiberglass cast in her favorite color, blue, and my promise that when it comes off I'll buy her a fielder's glove.

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