BOULDER, Colo. — As a communications officer at the Grant County PUD, Tom Stredwick owes his livelihood to the great, flowing Columbia River that divides and powers our state.
But until Wednesday the 29-year-old husband and father from Ephrata is in Lyons, near Boulder, working alongside a far-smaller river that has taken everything away from most everyone in town.
“The St. Vrain River rerouted itself through the heart of neighborhoods,” Stredwick said by phone Friday on site as a relief worker with the Apple Valley Chapter of the American Red Cross.
He’s working as an information source for news media covering the floods and helping direct victims to the help they need.
At the heart of the Rocky Mountains in the north-central part of the state, Lyons is one of the towns hardest hit by a week of storm-caused flooding, Stredwick said.
Lawns and streets, homes and driveways are now repositories for debris, mud, gravel and boulders. The flooding knocked out the sewage plant, and potable water supply. Power’s still out, too.
Some 400 victims remain in 14 shelters throughout the state.
“Seeing the people who have lost everything — their attitude toward all of this is pretty inspiring,” Stredwick said, telling a story of two neighbors who had lived near each other for 10 years, but had never met — until they occupied neighboring cots at one of the shelters.
“One asked if anyone had any socks. The other neighbor gave him socks, and it brought everyone to tears. The simple things mean more right now when you have nothing. It makes you understand what’s important.”
Stredwick is one of more than 750 Red Cross workers on relief assignments in Colorado. Their primary purpose is to supply emergency shelter and food.
Other volunteers are cruising the area in emergency response vehicles, handing out shovels, gloves, lanterns and tarps to cover things that residents can salvage.
Lyons had been evacuated for the past week and a half, but the National Guard was beginning to let residents back in, he said. Everyone has to be out by sundown, he said.