LYONS, Colo. — The cars that normally clog Main Street in Lyons on the way to Rocky Mountain National Park have been replaced by military supply trucks. Shop owners in Estes Park hurriedly cleared their wares in fear that the Big Thompson River will rise again. A plywood sign encouraged residents mucking out their homes to “Hang in there.”
Days of rain and floods have transformed the outdoorsy mountain communities in Colorado’s Rocky Mountain foothills affectionately known “The Gore-Tex Vortex” from a paradise into a disaster area with little in the way of supplies or services — and more rain falling Sunday.
The string of communities from Boulder to Estes Park, the gateway to Rocky Mountain National Park, is a base for backpackers and nature lovers where blue-collar and yuppie sensibilities exist side by side. Now, roadways have crumbled, scenic bridges are destroyed, the site of the bluegrass festival is washed out and most shops are closed.
Chris Rodes, one of Lyons’ newest residents, said the change is so drastic that he is considering moving away just two weeks after settling there.
“It’s not the same,” Rodes said. “All these beautiful places, it’s just brown mud.”
Estes Park town administrator Frank Lancaster said it could be a month or more before things get back to some semblance of normal, and he advised visitors who would normally flock there during the golden September days to stay away.
The residents who remained or began trickling back — if they were allowed to do so — were left to watch out for one another. Restaurateurs and grocers in Lyons were distributing food to their neighbors as others arrived in groups carrying supplies.
Scott Martin, 25, drove the half-hour from Boulder Saturday to deliver drinking water and gasoline to a friend’s parents. He fled Lyons amid a torrential downpour on Wednesday night after the mountain stream that cuts through town gushed into his basement.