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Flood leaves truck lodged in in isolated Glen Haven Town Hall

8:46 PM, Sep 24, 2013   |    comments
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GLEN HAVEN - Recovery and rebuilding efforts are well underway in this small Larimer County town near Estes Park that was severely damaged by flooding earlier this month.

The raging Big Thompson River ripped out large portions of Devil's Gulch Road - the only road into town - tearing sections of asphalt like wet cardboard, snapping power poles like toothpicks and ripping propane tanks from their moorings.

Cars sit overturned and buried in the river bed, or shoved inside buildings that then collapsed upon them.

Water and power lines lie exposed everywhere, and residents have built homemade bridges using downed timber and broken rafters to cross the waters.

Glen Haven has a small population of year-round residents, and a larger population of people who stay in vacation homes that must be winterized before the coming snows. Fresh snow on the nearby Rocky Mountain peaks due on Tuesday added new urgency.

"I don't think we're going to salvage this one," resident Tim Sterkel said, looking at the Glen Haven Town Hall.

A massive pile of debris has crushed the upstream side of the building, and a Ford Bronco has been shoved inside. A spray-painted sign warns people to stay out.

During the 1976 floods that tore through the same area, the town hall was pushed several feet downstream off its foundation. Sterkel, who owns an excavating company, helped put it back. But looking at the building on Tuesday morning, he doesn't think there's anyway it can be saved this time.

"We're lucky we've got left what we've got left," Sterkel said after a mile walk out from his home. Six bridges cross the road he normally drives. All are gone.

One person was killed by the raging floodwaters a few miles downstream in Drake, and another is missing and presumed dead. A man who authorities thought had died escaped out the window of his home before it was washed away.

Authorities still don't yet know how many structures were destroyed by the raging floodwaters sparked by several days of heavy rain and bolstered by dam overtoppings.

In Glen Haven, utility workers are quickly replacing snapped power poles and stringing lines to bring electricity back to the area. Other workers, including Adam Strong, are clearing the roads.

"Holy moley," said the owner of Adam's Tree Service in Estes Park, stepping out of his pickup. "I'm pretty blown away by what's going on down here..."

The National Guard is limiting access to Glen Haven to protect property from looting and further damage while homeowners recover.

Tuesday morning, small groups of property owners hiked in across the river, many of them carrying jugs of antifreeze and bleach to prepare their homes for the winter.

A single road runs through Glen Haven, which is downstream from Estes Park but above Drake along the Big Thompson River. Below the town hall, the road has been erased by the river, which now runs freely down a shattered asphalt and gravel bed.

The last Charlotte Gee saw of her Glen Haven-area home was from above in a National Guard helicopter as she was evacuated. A retired schoolteacher, Gee, 85, teared up as she recalled how competent and effective the multiple government agencies have been in rescuing her and putting her in touch with recovery experts.

"The first person who complains about the government, I'm going to send to the principal's office," she said with a smile.

(Copyright © 2013 Fort Collins Coloradoan, All Rights Reserved)

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