In flooded Colorado, an anguished question: where to live, and for how long (+video)
For the thousands in Colorado displaced by the floods, the uncertainty is the hardest part. Even homes left standing may be inaccessible for months, and the future of entire communities could be in doubt.
They’ve been airlifted from the mountains by Chinook and Blackhawk, and driven out via flooded and destroyed roadways by the National Guard. Some people left behind houses barely touched by the floods, but now inaccessible because of washed-out roads. Others left homes completely destroyed, taking with them nothing more than the clothes on their backs.
More than 11,000 people are displaced in Colorado because of the floods, and about 11,750 are under mandatory evacuation orders. The largest airlift rescue operation since Hurricane Katrina has helped evacuate more than 1,700 people from isolated areas, and was continuing Tuesday.
The numbers of displaced people – many of whom may not be able to get back to their homes for many months – creates a daunting challenge for the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) and the state, as they work to figure out housing solutions. Stories abound of near escapes, daring rescues, and families – including many with elderly residents and young children – who have no idea where they’ll live for the coming months.
At this point, many are staying with friends, family, and neighbors, though several shelters are also operating and full. FEMA hasn’t made any housing decisions, though in a news conference Monday, FEMA administrator Craig Fugate said that renting homes and using modular housing units were options. “There are a wide range of programs,” Mr. Fugate said, noting that FEMA has learned a lot from its work housing displaced people from Hurricane Sandy.
For now, many displaced Coloradans have no idea when they’ll be able to return even to assess the damage to their homes, much less to live in them.
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