Flooding Ravages Colorado Ranch

Melissa Block speaks with David Jessup, co-owner of the Sylvan Dale Guest Ranch in Loveland, Colo. The ranch was partially rebuilt and redesigned after it was damaged in the 1976 Big Thompson Flood.

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ROBERT SIEGEL, HOST:

Vice President Biden visited Colorado today to survey the damage from torrential rains and flooding. He viewed much of the damage from a Black Hawk helicopter and he delivered this message of support.

VICE PRESIDENT JOSEPH BIDEN: I promise you there will be help. It will take some time in some of your cases. But immediate help for shelter and the rest is available. So, as my grandfather would say: Keep the faith. I promise you, we're not going away. The state, local and federal government is not leaving. We are going to meet the needs as a consequence of this disaster.

SIEGEL: That's Joe Biden in Greeley, Colorado.

Eight people are now confirmed dead in the Colorado floods. The body of a 79-year-old woman was found today beside the Big Thompson River. She had been listed as missing. Her house had been swept away.

MELISSA BLOCK, HOST:

Outside Loveland, Colorado, there was heavy damage to a historic tourist spot. The Sylvan Dale Guest Ranch has been run by one family since 1946. It's a working ranch on 3,200 acres which had 13 guest cabins. Owner David Jessup tells us he evacuated when he heard the flooding was coming. Others stayed behind.

DAVID JESSUP: My sister has a home on ranch and she stayed behind. We have a home in nearby Loveland, so we left. And it's a good thing we did because the ranch is now incommunicado. There's no access or phone except for a reluctant cell phone.

BLOCK: And when you say no access, meaning the roads are washed out?

JESSUP: The roads are gone and there's still a bridge but it's surrounded by water.

BLOCK: Well, for your sister and the folks who stayed behind, did they make the wrong decision? I mean what are they going to do?

JESSUP: No, they're safe in their home. They have adequate provisions for now. And they need to be there and I need to be here, so that works fine. We've both been kind of staggered by the amount of damage which was greater than the 1976 flood. My parents were rebuilding after that flood which was bad, but this one was probably twice as bad.

BLOCK: What did the folks who stayed behind tell you about the power of the water that swept through?

JESSUP: Well, we saw it when it was about halfway to its - the maximum. And so we saw plenty of power ourselves before we left. But coming in there after the devastation, it's just remarkable.

BLOCK: So you have been able to get back?

JESSUP: Yes, we hike in over a ridge called Green Ridge. It's about 45 minutes.

BLOCK: And can you describe what you see?

JESSUP: Well, our two main buildings are destroyed. One is torn in half and another is collapsed. Two cabins have been swept away. Probably the most startling thing is that our entry road, which used to rundown about 100-yard slight slope to a bridge, has been eroded. And now, when you drive in there, you come to a 30 foot cliff. It's quite remarkable.

BLOCK: Mr. Jessup, how many workers do you have on the ranch?

JESSUP: We have about 80 employees during the peak of our season, some of them part-time.

BLOCK: Mm-hmm. And what happens to them?

JESSUP: Well, unfortunately nearly all of them will have to go on unemployment. And we put word out in the community to try to find jobs for as many as possible. And we hope that when we can get started going again, we can get a lot of them back. They're wonderful people.

BLOCK: Mr. Jessup, do you have flood insurance?

JESSUP: We did not. We had rebuilt after the last flood in such a way that we would be safe from one of that size. What we couldn't predict was that it would be much bigger. And, of course, flood insurance is very expensive so that's why we didn't have it. We thought we were safe from a flood of the last size.

BLOCK: Hmm. And this one was that much more powerful. Are you regretting that decision now?

JESSUP: Oh yes.

BLOCK: It is a working ranch that you have there. How did the animals do in...

JESSUP: All of the animals survived except one old horse named Mr. J, named after my father, who apparently died of a heart attack the night of the flood. But all the people and animals are fine.

BLOCK: None of the animals washed away.

JESSUP: No.

BLOCK: So what happened to Mr. J? Why do you think it was a heart attack?

JESSUP: Well, the power and noise of the river, boulders thumping along creating a thunderous noise, the sound of propane tanks loose from their moorings, whistling, probably just scared the horses.

BLOCK: Well, Mr. Jessup, all the best to you. Thanks for talking with us today.

JESSUP: Yes, thank you.

BLOCK: That's David Jessup who runs the Sylvan Dale Guest Ranch outside Loveland, Colorado.

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