Big Thompson Canyon homeowners say they need help getting mud out of basements

We can't get heavy equipment, generators up canyon

LARIMER COUNTY, Colo. - Some homeowners in the Big Thompson Canyon have no electricity, no running water, no septic systems and no way to clean the muddy mess out of their basements.

“It scares me because the mold can grow so fast,” said Tesa Vassar. “And winter is on its way.”

Vassar told 7NEWS that she’d like to get the mud cleaned out of her basement so she can winterize the pipes “to keep them from freezing on top of everything else.”

Vassar’s brother posted a video on YouTube which shows a large amount of debris from her neighbor’s property in her front yard.

“There are logs from their log cabins, roofs and floors,” she said.

The video also shows about 4 feet of mud in her basement.  Without electricity, it is mud that is going to have to be hauled out by hand.

“We’ve got churches, the Red Cross, everybody wanting to help,” she said, “but we can’t get anybody up there.”

When asked about the holdup, Vassar replied, “We have no access (for heavy equipment) at all.”

The giant flood of 2013 washed out large sections of highway 34 through the Big Thompson Canyon. CDOT is working furiously to rebuild the highway as quickly as possible.  The deadline is Dec. 1.

But Vassar says she can’t wait that long to get the mud out of her house.

“Maybe FEMA can airlift a crew in there,” she said, “put ‘em down and let them work for the day so they could at least get the stuff out of the basement.”

7NEWS asked the Larimer County Sheriff’s Office about Vassar’s concerns.

Spokesman John Schultz said, “We are not stopping volunteers as long as they are with a credentialed resident.”

When asked how the volunteers can reach homes not accessible by road, Schultz said, “Some are hiking in and some are using ATVs.”

Schultz said if they’re traveling over someone else’s private property to reach damaged homes, “they need to get permission.”

Vassar says she has permission to travel over her neighbor's property and she's grateful for it, "but we can't get generators, fans, dehumidifiers and other heavy equipment in via ATVs. We need help with that."

When asked about the concern some property owners may have about allowing heavier equipment to drive over their property, Schultz replied, “If that is the only way in and there is an issue, the Sheriff will talk with the property owner.”

Vassar says homeowners in the Big Thompson Canyon are doing what they can to help others.


-- Bible dating to 1829 found in flood debris --

She said family members found a Bible in the flood debris that washed into her front yard.

“It dates back to 1829,” she said. “There were several photos stored among the pages.”

Vassar forwarded a picture of the Bible and snapshots of some of the photos inside to 7NEWS.  She said she’d like to find out which neighbor the Bible belongs to and get it returned to them.

Vassar became emotional while talking about her mother, who lived through the 1976 flood, but died a few weeks before this one.

"I'm just glad she doesn't have to see this," she said. "It would devastate her."


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