Story: Wind River Ranch

Colorado Floods

Estes Park, Colorado, September 20, 2013.

American Red Cross volunteer Bob Wallace, along with Red Cross volunteer colleagues Virginia Hart and Katie Rowley, stopped at Wind River Ranch to see if assistance is needed after the recent flooding. The Ranch, a Christian family conference center, suffered heavy damage from the recent flooding. The Red Cross workers wanted to make sure they knew that in Estes Park a Red Cross shelter is available where overnight accommodations, three meals a day, nursing assistance, and disaster mental health services are available.

Nick Harold, Ranch Foreman, was present when water came crashing down the mountainside that sits adjacent to the ranch residence, offices, conference center, and horse corrals. He described the deluge as a literal wall of water. “We had 54 horses in the corral. At one point the horses were up to their withers in water,” said Harold.

Water had loosened the soil on the mountainside, sending down huge piles of mud and broken trees. “When the mudslide let loose, it made a horrible noise, a grinding of rocks and the snapping of trees,” said Harold. “We had just put up a new fence around the corral, but I worried it would not hold, and that we would find a corral full of horses with broken legs,” said Harold.

To save the residence and conference center, Harold mobilized his crew who used the ranchÕs earth-moving equipment to clear mud and sludge to allow the water to keep moving. At the time of the flood there were 30 church pastors and wives present for a conference. “They all pitched in with shovels to help clear the silt and sediment out of the stream of water,” said Harold. The group worked 20 hours straight and were rewarded by successfully protecting the structures from damage.

Once the structures were protected, Harold said he was almost afraid to go to the corral. He imagined it would be filled with horses in agony due to numerous broken legs, and that his next task would be to euthanize those critically hurt. To his surprise they were all unharmed. The new fence had blocked the debris from inundating the corral. He and his crew quickly moved the horses out of the damaged area and relocated them to their summer pasture.

At the end of the visit with Harold he invited the Red Cross visitors to share dinner with him and the rest of the ranch crew. “Our cooks are wonderful and prepare meals for 30-40 every night. Three more at the last minute will not be a problem,” he said. They were touched by the offer and would have loved to join them, but due to the late hour and the long drive back to their headquarters, they reluctantly got back into their 4×4 vehicle and pointed it towards Denver.

Story Credit: Robert W. Wallace/American Red Cross

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