The Big Thompson flood, up close and personal

(Knock, knock, knock) “Is anyone home? It’s Loveland fire station. Please open up!” This is what my grandparents awoke to on Sept. 12, 2013, when they were forced to evacuate their home quickly because of the Big Thompson River flooding in northern Colorado.

“If you want to be on one side or the other along the Big Thompson River in Loveland, do it now,” Loveland Police Chief Luke Hecker said to the public on Sept. 12.

The Big Thompson River runs through the middle of Loveland, Colorado. Hecker was telling citizens to choose a side of the city to take refuge at before the river became impassible.

My grandparents packed a few personal belongings and loaded their horses into a trailer as they evacuated. The horses went to Hearts for Horses Rescue Center in Loveland. Fortunately, my grandparents’ trailer had living quarters so they were able to stay with their horses at the rescue center.

It never crossed their minds that they would be living at the Hearts for Horses Rescue Center for the next month. Flood evacuations have happened before, but their home was always safe, never affected.

The Big Thompson River swept away almost everything from my grandparents. Their barn, shop and home were all severely damaged. Eight feet of muddy water stood in their shop with 4 feet inside their home. The only items salvageable were those above the kitchen countertop level.

“It was like a sea of brown,” my dad, Ty May said. “All you could see was mud. It covered everything and stood 3 feet deep.”

Fortunately, unlike most houses touched by the flood, not everything was destroyed. My grandparents were able to salvage many possessions of sentimental value including my grandmother’s wedding ring, grandfather’s hand-made saddles and a family picture album.

Ty went to Loveland for a few weeks to help clean the property. Just removing the mud took most of his time. When he returned home, he brought a few friends with him. My family will be housing my grandparent’s horses until my grandparents have everything settled.

Slowly, my grandparents are repairing the shop that sits on 5 acres of property. Loveland City Council will not allow them to reside on the property because of the proximity of the Big Thompson River. So they are looking for a new place to call home.

My entire family went through a difficult time with the Big Thomson flood, but they are optimistically looking toward the future. The flood accounted for eight deaths and 2,000 destroyed homes. The river may have taken material possessions, but my grandparents are fortunate to be alive.

“We can now finally move into a real house,” my Grandmother, Jo Ann, said. “We would have never moved without this happening (the flood).”

Kylee May

About the Author Kylee May

Kylee May is a freshman at MU, from the small town of Hondo, TX, who has a passion for everything she immerses herself in. May’s family moved to Sullivan, MO this summer to join her grandparents, native Missourians. May is a science and agricultural journalism major with an animal sciences minor focusing on equine. May’s dream job is to write for Western Horseman Magazine or American Quarter Horse Association.