Monday, March 20, 2017

Day 35: September 2013 Flood Baldpate

It is hard to know where to begin in talking about our September Federal Flood Disaster # 13768 in the fall of 2013. The entire experience certainly provided me much more compassion any time the news features stories of flood victims.

What began as just an extra rainy week, unexpectedly and quickly turned into an emergency situation. As the pouring rains did not stop and water rolled down our mountainside, torrential rivers cut through our driveway, tore down trees and tried to launch our propane tank down a newly-created ravine.  Our kitchen and basement were flooded. It was necessary to evacuate our guests from the hotel and close six weeks before the anticipated end of our season.

Our Youtube Baldpate Flood video does a pretty good job of narrating the timeline of events with photos and videos shot during the actual disaster, and our year later Summer Enchanted Evenings presentation, Reflections on Baldpate’s 2013 September Flood Disaster, shares much of our first year recovery story.

Baldpate Driveway
The experience from a financial recovery point of view was definitely one of long disappointing days completing detailed forms and paperwork, just to be turned down by my insurance company (even those I had “loss of business” coverage), FEMA (not covered since a business entity), SBA loans (even with 25+ years in business, not deemed a viable risk since I did not have adequate payback funds in reserve).  I wanted to scream, if I had the money, I wouldn’t be asking for the loan!  I did indeed use every personal reserve before I asked for help even to the point of taking social security benefits years before I wanted to, but at the time every dollar was critical to get back on track.

It was my family that asked me to set aside my do-it-myself pride to request donations from my loyal customers and to apply for grant money as it became available. Family and friends stepped in to help in so many ways, be it literally mucking out the basements, or freely loaning heavy equipment to create a primitive road, or stopping by to just chat and help me stack sandbags, or with months of daily prayers that I know held me together.

Help did eventually work its way through the system, my banks extended a grace period on some of my loans, some of my suppliers extended terms (a huge shout out to FSA, then Yancey, who did not even charge interest during the time I could not pay).  In an absolute answer to prayer, Baldpate received grants from United Way and Recover Colorado.

In somewhat strange emotional ways, recovery was not a quick process either.  Instead of my previous rainy day feelings, “settle in with a warm cup of soup,” I found myself strangely tense if it rained for more than a few hours. As well, one experiences a shift in piously thinking that you are safe way up at 9,000 feet since floods could only rise up from below, but now understood they can just as easily come down from above. There were clear feelings of guilt to process when you saw that others were facing sincere devastation much worse than your own. 

There were moments of when all you could do was laugh at silly things. The first days, although we had safe water at Baldpate, we did not have sewer so we were in the “no flush” zone.  Thankfully my home in town had not been damaged, so we shuttled there to shower. Amazing to me was that each of the 13 staff members, each day, required a new clean towel. The piles of laundry when they finally all left took me weeks to complete!  There were plenty of fun stories!  There was the parking ticket I received when I left my car at the top of the impassable driveway for blocking the road!  And if you made it through the Reflections story, the bear story is in retrospect hysterical!

Now with several years of time as perspective, with each rainbow I see even more of the blessings from that frightening experience. From the 900 tons of rock that the county used to repair and upgrade our road, to the honesty factor I had to face with the strained financial state of my small business and emergency reserves, an immense amount of good has been realized.  I have been truly Too Blessed to Be Stressed.  All this AND a very clean Baldpate basement!

Written by Lois Smith

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