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Colorado Flood Evacuees Face Still More Challenges


Colorado is drying out after last week's heavy floods. The scale of the damage caused by the flooding is best understood through numbers. The number of people killed or presumed dead has reached 10. The floods washed out roads and bridges and destroyed more than 2,000 homes and so far, well over 10,000 people have applied for federal aid.

Grace Hood from member station KUNC reports it may be months, possibly years, before evacuees can return home.

GRACE HOOD, BYLINE: In the past week, Ed and Sarah Egloff have experienced enough dramatic events to fill a lifetime. In the hours before their mountain home and cars washed away in the roaring Big Thompson River, the couple waded through deep water. Then they were rescued by helicopter from their tiny town of Drake. Today they're living in Fort Collins.

SARAH EGLOFF: Good morning, and I was just calling you guys to report that we were in the Colorado floods.

HOOD: And they're wading just as deeply into government, insurance and financial bureaucracies.

EGLOFF: We've lost our home, and we're trying to work with the insurance company so that we can pay off the loan.

HOOD: Through dozens of phone calls every day, the Egloffs are just starting to organize their lives. Upstairs, Sarah calls the bank. Downstairs, Ed catalogs every one of his electrician's tools washed away in the flood. The list is two pages, single spaced.

ED EGLOFF: You can see some things, I knew what year I bought them, but there's a lot of stuff that I've accumulated over 20 some years of electrical work.

HOOD: The Egloffs lived almost two decades in their home and raised their two kids there. This week they learned their flood insurance only covered the structure, not their home contents as they had thought. Sarah says a representative for the insurance company told her a site visit would be required to verify damage.

EGLOFF: I said you can't get to it. There's no way to get to it. Well, we have to find the cars too. I said good luck. You're going to have to go down the river. They could be in Kansas by now or somewhere.

HOOD: Colorado's governor wants as many roads and bridges as possible to be rebuilt by December 1. Until then, inspectors have no way of reaching some home sites.

KEVIN WYNNE: We hope that it'll be sooner than that.

HOOD: Kevin Wynne is with the U.S. Small Business Administration, which, along with the Federal Emergency Management Agency, is offering assistance to flood survivors. He says in addition to temporary living expenses, people like the Egloffs may qualify for low interest loans to help with rebuilding costs not covered by insurance.

WYNNE: That's the key thing. People think, well, I won't be qualified because this is small business administration. No, we do loans for homeowners and renters as well.

HOOD: So far, FEMA's seen 10,000 Colorado assistance applications, including the Egloffs. Meantime, a half dozen disaster recovery centers set up by local governments across the Front Range are offering assistance with everything from flood clean up to mental health counseling.

EGLOFF: My name is Sarah. Last name is Egloff. It's E-G-L-O-F-F.

HOOD: Back at Ed and Sarah Egloff's temporary home, one focus is deciding how and when they'll return to work.

EGLOFF: I plan on going back to work either, you know, probably first thing next week. Get back to work and, you know, money still has to be earned.

EGLOFF: And I said to Ed, I'm not that proud anymore. If I need something - if I can get a pair of free sneakers, I'm going to get a pair because I said we can't keep buying stuff. We can't afford to do it, you know?

HOOD: The Egloffs say a key logistical challenge in the next month will be figuring out where they'll live. Sarah plans to eventually return to her job in Estes Park. Because the roads are out, that commute from where they're living now would be more than two hours. Asking for help may not be easy, but disaster officials say there are enough resources to go around.

For NPR News, I'm Grace Hood in Fort Collins, Colorado. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.