For the second time in as many years, Larimer County residents have been hard hit by an unprecedented natural disaster. After suffering the devastation of the largest wildfire in county history, we have recently experienced the most widespread and destructive flood in Larimer County since 1976.
Many citizens have lost homes, are isolated from their homes or communities, and are without sewer or road access to their property. Businesses are damaged and are suffering from a loss of tourism and customers. When you don’t have a home or business to return to it’s hard to rebuild anything in your life. We know this is frustrating.
Just as we responded with an immediate and massive recovery effort in the High Park Fire, the county is doing so again with the flood. Road crews and contractors were on the job before the rains stopped. Every county department stepped up to assist with restoring needed services and rebuilding communities.
Our primary responsibility is to protect the health and safety of our citizens. We are also dedicated to restoring access to homes and communities. Your county government doesn’t shut down and it doesn’t let up in its duty to help citizens. Just as we are still working on the fire recovery, we are committed to the flood recovery for as long as it takes.
The task is immense and will take time to complete properly. We estimate our road and bridge loss alone at about $100 million. That is more than our entire annual general fund budget and we still will continue to provide all the other services citizens depend on.
We are fortunate to have a community that cares and partners who want to help. We have leveraged help from the federal government and FEMA, the State of Colorado, and numerous non-profits and organizations in our community and around the nation that have poured help into our area. By working with them, we have greatly enlarged what help the county can provide.
Here’s just a small sampling of efforts underway. We’re working with the state and federal government to open U.S. 34 and 36 which provide vital access to Estes Park and Rocky Mountain National Park. County crews and contractors are making tremendous strides in restoring access to Glen Haven, Storm Mountain, Pinewood Springs, Buckhorn, Big Elk Meadows, Cedar Springs, Cedar Cove, the Retreat, and many other communities. Our health department had a team in Estes Park before the rain stopped to help local restaurants and businesses open as soon as possible. We have redirected funds to the Estes Economic Development Committee to assist local businesses. Under contract with EPA, we are working to remove hazardous debris. We collaborated with the City of Loveland and other partners to open the Disaster Assistance Center through Oct. 4 to provide a wide range of help like obtaining copies of lost vital records, tetanus shots, dealing with flood damage and hazards safely, determining eligibility for financial assistance, and getting basic necessities such as clothing and personal items.
It will take time to rebuild and recover, but just like our mountain-strong citizens, we are committed to seeing this through successfully and completely. With the help of local charities, neighbors helping neighbors, and our government partners we will meet this challenge.
Linda Hoffmann, Larimer County Manager