The Poudre River has run black for days now.
On the rare occasions when the water is clear, you can see thick layers of black soot covering the rocks and sand on the river bottom.
Flash floods and mudslides have come and gone, and will be back.
As I write this blog, the lower Poudre Canyon highway is closed due to a mudslide. A car tried to bull through and is stuck in black goo.
On Saturday, residents of the mountain hamlet of Poudre Park came out en masse to fill 2,000 sandbags and place them strategically to protect homes from flash floods. This went on until we ran out of bags and sand. More are coming today.
The sandbagging was prompted by a Friday afternoon heavy rainstorm that caused flash floods to come off the soot-blackened mountainsides.
Residents of Falls Gulch, where five homes were lost in the High Park Fire, are at the most risk. It’s a narrow gulch, just ripe for flash floods, at the east end of Poudre Park. To learn more, go to the blog for the Poudre Canyon Fire Protection District.
These are some of the aftermaths of the High Park Fire in northern Colorado.
Most of us who live in Poudre Canyon and nearby Rist Canyon never considered what would happen in Nature after the firestorm that devastated forests and homes.
We were too busy evacuating and living homeless from June 9 to the first few days of July. Since then, people who lost their homes—almost 300 gone in Rist and Poudre canyons and Glacier View—have been swamped with the mind-boggling details of rebuilding or relocating, starting lives over again.
Those of us lucky enough to have homes to return to hadn’t considered the real possibility of flash floods and mud slides. There were soot-covered couches and refrigerators full of spoiled food to worry about.
What’s happening now is quite simple, an act of Nature:
The annual Southwest Monsoon, which usually comes in June, decided to wait until July this year. Typically, the monsoon rains are refreshing and welcomed as they move aside the summer heat.
Since June 30, the daily monsoon, which comes north from the Gulf of Mexico, has brought afternoon and evening storms. The rain falls on mountains once covered with thick pine forests, wild grasses and sagebrush that helped the moisture soak in.
Now that trees and vegetation are gone, the rain makes its own path down the mountains, flowing into little gullies and then into gulches, filling up and overflowing culverts along the highway and rushing into the river.
The highway shoulders, in many places, are just like the river: black with soot. The Colorado Department of Transportation has vigorously fought to move aside the black mud that keeps coming onto the byway.
This is the way life has been. Today’s weather forecast: more rain.
And more black sooty mud.