LYONS, Colo. — For years, any time there was a chance for flash flooding in the region, it’d be cause for major concern for the people of Lyons with the St. Vrain running so close to town. It’s still something taken very seriously, but this year the community got to see just how helpful flood prevention projects have been since the major flood in 2013.
“The river came into the highway, flowed straight at the market, the river and the flood, went through the front doors, and did a significant amount of damage both here as well as a few other businesses in town,” said Neil Sullivan, who owns the St. Vrain Market that was severely damaged during the flooding.
He and his wife have been an active part of the rebuilding process.
“A lot of people don’t recognize that during that flood, we lost all of our utilities, our gas lines, our sewage lines, our water lines, our electricity. So there was a lot of infrastructure to rebuild,” he said.
Impacts of flood prevention work near Lyons on display during rainy weather
Over nearly a decade, local, state and federal partners have mitigated the creek and other drainage areas.
“One of the last flood related repair projects just got finished, 10 years later,” said Sullivan.
Some of those projects include widening the channel, creating an overflow channel, river way improvements, earthwork and native vegetation to reinforce the streambank, and reintroducing wetlands.
The first big test was this spring: A consistently wet and soggy season mixed with snow runoff. The St. Vrain eventually flowed at nearly 1,080 cubic feet per second (CFS). Even so, the risk was of low level, localized, nuisance flooding. Residents in low lying areas were able to pick up sandbags. It was a noticeable improvement.
“During those heavy spring days of rain, many of us pay close attention to the river,” said Sullivan, “I think everything the engineers have done, and the State and the feds have done to help us rebuild as a town and prevent future flood damage has worked very well so far.”
So now, on days where flash flooding is a possibility, a town that was rocked by the worst has the confidence to hope for the best.
“I definitely feel more relaxed and comfortable with rain these days than I would have without it, given the history of what happened 10 years ago,” said Sullivan.
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