Publisher’s Letter: Flash Flooding on the Poudre River

The Poudre River runs full of ash near Poudre Park as a result of flooding in Rustic on July 20 (Photo by Blaine Howerton)
By Blaine Howerton, Publisher
North Forty News

If you live near the Poudre River, last week may have been an eventful and very tough week.

Those of us who live in the mountains know the rewards of living in such a magical place usually outweigh the disadvantages. When a natural disaster strikes we are reminded of how precious life is. We got that reminder last Tuesday.

With our Reporter Annie, we were driving Manhatten Road on my weekly route from Red Feather to Poudre Canyon. On the way down to Poudre Canyon, we saw rain clouds building. Unconcerned, we enjoyed seeing a baby moose alongside the road, leisurely, feeding on the willows.

A moose feeding near Rustic (photo by Blaine Howerton)

Yet soon enough, we didn’t know how our lives might be affected over the next several days. Read more about our first-hand experience of the flooding in Rustic in our cover story.

In the following days, I experienced perhaps an irrational but sad regret. In retrospect, before we knew the full extent of what was to become a flash flood, we had seen people recreating on the river. Then, we heard rumors that several of the people we drove by on the river were missing. Both Annie and I blamed ourselves for not stopping to get them out. Thankfully, we later learned they were okay.

Without evidence, had we believed the man who told us that a bridge was out and upstream, the river was flooding, we would have stopped to yell, honk, anything — to warn those people to get out of the river. In hindsight, the sun was shining, traffic was moving as usual and the river looked normal. But upstream from us, a flood was coming, washing ash and mud along with it, taking everything in its path. We hadn’t believed it, because we weren’t yet witnessing it.

When we reached Ted’s Place we finally realized the seriousness of the flooding. The State Patrol blocked Highway 14 and wouldn’t let us back in. I felt helpless and full of regret that we didn’t do something for the people we saw upriver in harm’s way.

After being turned around at Ted’s Place, we knew the situation was serious so we reverted to what we COULD do. And that was to get cell service and send alerts to every local person on our lists. We sent about 4,000 emails within 10 minutes and posted a story on our website. Then I went to the Red Cross Shelter (at Cache La Poudre Elementary School), checked in (because I live in the affected area), and gathered as much information as I could. I pointed others in our articles to LETA so they could sign up for future alerts, and tasked myself with finding out as much as possible and sharing it on the platform we have worked so hard to build since 2017.

In the days that followed, the North Forty News team has invested their time, talents, and tenacity to report the latest news about the Flash Flood. I’m proud of them and due to last year’s record-breaking wildfires, this may be only the first of other natural disasters this season — and with our coverage, we’ll be “On It!”

North Forty News is an important resource to the communities we serve. Uncommon weeks like last week, remind me why I took on this newspaper in the first place — to preserve a trusted source of local news, grow it, and provide Northern Colorado with important and sometimes critical information.

With more resources, we can provide more updates — more pictures — more information in general. We do our best with what we have. We are growing, improving, and building every day. But, I can’t wait for the day when we can cover an event like Flash Flooding in the Poudre Canyon in an even more comprehensive way.

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