1 Year After Colo. Flooding, Communities Will Never Be The Same
STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:
One year after flooding in parts of Colorado, some people still cannot go home. The floods destroyed thousands of houses. And rebuilding has not been easy for a couple who spoke with Grace Hood, of member station KUNC.
GRACE HOOD, BYLINE: The easiest way for Ed and Sarah Egloff to describe the magnitude of their loss last September is to outline what remained on their property. It was situated in a canyon next to the Big Thompson River.
ED EGLOFF: The only thing that was in the place where I thought it should have been when we went back to look was the ground rod for the electrical service.
HOOD: The couple raised their two kids and lived for almost two decades in their home, which was built after a 1976 flash flood caused massive damage in the canyon. The home was supposed to withstand future floods. But when water rose last year, Sarah says it took their home, their cars.
SARAH EGLOFF: The things that you really miss that you can't get back are your pictures.
HOOD: The Egloffs had flood insurance on the structure of their home, not its contents.
E. EGLOFF: It'll never be the same, so...
S. EGLOFF: You've always got what’s right here in your heart, anyway.
HOOD: As they filled out mountains of paperwork to claim their $250,000 policy, they began to work through a complicated financial puzzle. They lived in a rental property, continued working and started buying furniture, all the while paying the mortgage on a home that didn't exist.
E. EGLOFF: We didn't do anything drastic until we found the new house here. Once we found that, we talked to the mortgage broker and they said, OK, now you need to pay that off so that way we can get you qualified.
HOOD: Eventually the Egloffs moved into a new home - a huge milestone. But other families haven't been so lucky. Larimer County was one of the hardest hit by the natural disaster. Recovery manager Suzanne Bassinger says many families are still struggling.
SUZANNE BASSINGER: Here we are on the one-year anniversary, and people are just starting to think about permanent repairs.
HOOD: Few residents with severe damage had flood insurance. That's because many were outside what was traditionally considered the flood plain. Other factors like winter and road reconstruction have also delayed home repairs. Along the critical U.S. 34 Highway, Bassinger says residents are expected to see another round of road reconstruction in the coming years.
BASSINGER: We don't even have a permanent design yet, which gives you an idea of the timeframe that's required to put this land back to where it was before.
HOOD: In short - it will take years for a complete recovery. Lately Ed and Sarah Egloff have been working around the smaller obstacles after moving into their new home. The couple is still finding items they need to replace, things like cooking pans. Inside their brightly lit kitchen, it has all the furnishings and knickknacks you'd expect to see.
S. EGLOFF: It's definitely not our other house, but it's a new opportunity for us. And it's - we were very lucky, and we have...
E. EGLOFF: It's a new canvas. We can begin a new painting.
S. EGLOFF: Yeah.
E. EGLOFF: It's something to start over with.
HOOD: As they launch a new phase in their lives, there's one thing from their past they're not quite ready to part with. They still own the land where their home used to sit.
S. EGLOFF: So we own a piece of property that's worthless. But we still own it; we can't do anything on it.
E. EGLOFF: For the most part, we're going to hang onto it for now. Hopefully someday maybe it'll be worth something just because of where it is.
HOOD: They can't rebuild on the land, but the property means a lot to them. Keeping it is a decision that is both emotional and financial - two components that all flood survivors will be wrestling with in the years to come. For NPR News, I'm Grace Hood.
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