Our View: Time to help our Colorado neighbors
September 21, 2013
The world's most recent natural disaster hit close to home as historic flooding ravaged roads, bridges, residential neighborhoods, ranches and businesses in 17 counties surrounding Boulder and the Denver area. The death toll from the floods now stands at 10, thousands are displaced from their homes and property damage estimates have reached $2 billion. The state also is responding to reports of oil spills in the flood-hit areas. At last count, inspectors and environmental protection specialists were investigating at least 10 oil spills that have released almost 14,000 gallons of petroleum products.
But as the flood waters recede and news coverage begins to fade, people easily can forget about the flood recovery efforts just beginning. As with any national disaster, there's an initial outpouring of emergency aid, but when the national news crews turn their attention to the next big story, sometimes help for sustained recovery slows down.
According to Roger Sandberg, the former Haiti country director for Medair, a Swiss-based emergency relief and rehabilitation humanitarian aid organization, there are three phases to effective disaster response. The first is relief, the second is rehabilitation and the third is development. This caliber of response, which is outlined in the book "Toxic Charity" by Robert D. Lupton, begins with immediate emergency response but doesn't end there. It is followed by long-term investments of time and money to restore and improve a community beyond its predisaster level.
In the case of the Colorado floods, the biggest hurdles lie ahead and long-term investments in recovery, along the lines outlined in Sandberg's approach, will be vital. There's no quick fix. In fact, the task of recovery facing the state of Colorado is huge.
Infrastructure needs alone are monumental. The latest state damage assessment revealed there are more than 200 miles of state highways and 50 bridges to rebuild before displaced residents can return to their homes — a massive project that will cost millions of dollars and take months, if not years, to complete.
The Steamboat Pilot & Today urges Routt County residents to seek ways to assist with flood recovery efforts now and in the months to come. Currently, one of the best ways to help flood victims throughout the hardest hit areas is to donate money to the Foothills, Weld County or Larimer County United Way organizations. Each group has established flood relief funds to support long-term recovery efforts like transitional housing and health needs for their area residents.
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Another organization offering assistance for long-term flood recovery is Help Colorado Now, http://www.helpcoloradonow.org. This effort is a partnership between the Colorado Division of Homeland Security and Emergency Management and Colorado-based nonprofit organizations.
Another less publicized aspect of flood recovery involves agriculture and livestock. The Colorado Farm Bureau has stepped forward to marshal assistance for farmers and ranchers hit hard by the flooding. Anyone wanting to support this effort can send donations to the Colorado Farm Bureau Foundation, which has established a disaster fund. For more information, visit http://www.coloradofarmbureau.com/disasterfund.
We also are learning of local groups and organizations that are looking for hands-on ways to help with the Colorado flood recovery effort. The Steamboat Institute sponsored a supplies drive this past week, which resulted in a truckload of items being delivered and distributed to churches on the Front Range. As more flood recovery efforts are planned in the coming months, let the Steamboat Pilot & Today, this area's prime news source, serve as a clearinghouse for information about these local events. Send us information about your flood recovery assistance projects, and we'll help spread the word online and in our print edition.
Our Colorado neighbors need Routt County's help, and that assistance needs to be sustained over the long term.