It is hard not to harken back to August 2011 and the devastation the region endured at the hands of Tropical Storm Irene when viewing the images coming from the 15 Colorado counties most impacted by the recent violent flooding there.
Stories and photos shared on Facebook by loved ones and friends in Colorado are heart-wrenching. The news is tragic and the story is still unfolding.
Five people have been confirmed dead after 15 inches of rain pounded Colorado non-stop for nearly a week. As of Monday afternoon, 1,200 people remained cut off from the outside world with no electricity and dwindling supplies of food and running water.
State emergency officials say the death toll is expected to rise as rescue efforts into mountainous backcountry areas have been severely hindered by the wet weather. Roadways and bridges have crumbled by the rising flood waters, which cover more than 2,000 square miles across 15 counties — an area twice the size of the state of Rhode Island.
To date, nearly 19,000 homes have been damaged, with at least 1,500 destroyed and 11,000 people have been evacuated.
President Obama signed a major disaster declaration last weekend, ordering federal aid for the flood-ravaged state, and the Colorado National Guard is at the scene, using 20 helicopters to rescue people trapped by washed-out roads and bridges. Most had been grounded, however, by heavy rains, fog and hampered visibility.
It’s been two years since the North Country endured similar conditions following Tropical Storm Irene. People here are still rebuilding and awaiting the final buyout of homes destroyed by Irene. Images of that fateful storm that were published in this newspaper are eerily similar to photos being circulated on news wires from Colorado, with homes underwater and people trapped by disintegrated roads and other infrastructure.
In comparison, Tropical Storm Irene dumped upwards of 10 inches of rain on the North Country, much of it in less than a 24-hour period, combined with winds of 69 mph at its center — just 5 mph slower than needed for hurricane status. The storm caused 10 deaths, left 1.1 million people without power and caused $1.3 billion in damages.