It’s been more than two months since Colorado’s historic floods and in tiny Jamestown, northwest of Boulder, the cleanup is far from over. During the flood, water ripped houses from their foundations and even dragged some downstream.
Many locals are still displaced and some will never return. Those who do want to come back, however, are getting help from volunteers who journey into the mountains every weekend to work on restoring the battered town.
On a recent Saturday morning, 14-year-old Henry Mans was standing on a truck helping load debris.
Mans has lived in Jamestown since the age of one. For him, there’s life before the flood and life after the flood. Before, he did what he calls “normal Jamestown things.”
No more normal
“We rode on our motorcycle, we did homework, we shot BB guns,” Mans said. “We did just normal weekend things, except most people don’t ride motorcycles or shoot BB guns in Boulder.”
Mans and his older brother go to school in Boulder and his family is renting a place there until they can move back to the house they own on Main Street in Jamestown. It was flooded but unlike others, it’s still standing.
Every weekend, since one of the roads to town became passable, Mans has traveled back here with his parents.
“We dug out our crawl space for the last two weekends -- that’s what I’ve been doing," Mans said. “And I don’t know just digging and getting rocks out and I don’t know, hard work.”
To fully understand the cleanup in Jamestown, you have to understand the place. It’s a small Western town in the mountains home to about 300 people, many of whom are artists and musicians.
Main Street is the heart of Jamestown: There’s a town hall, a restaurant and gathering place known as the “Merc” and houses sitting along a creek.
More recently, Jamestown is home to bulldozers and on weekends, the volunteers arrive. They’re locals, friends of locals, and church groups here to pick up debris.
Jamestown resident Martha Russo spent the day directing a crew of about 20 friends who came up from Denver.
“The first thing we’re going to do is we’re going to sign up because every hour we work FEMA gives us...,” Russo started to say.
Russo’s drowned out by a bulldozer but she’s explaining that for every hour a volunteer works, FEMA gives Jamestown about $20 extra for cleanup.
Annabelle Benes, 12, is a member of Russo’s crew who came to Jamestown for the day from Denver with family and friends to do, as Benes says, "whatever’s needed."
“Cleaning, raking, shoveling and putting things in wheelbarrows to the dumpster so that way there will be less junk,” Benes said.
But there’s still a lot of junk: Things like photos, old wedding invitations and bits of pottery lie amidst the tree branches and rubble.
Benes said she didn’t expect it to be like this.
“When I came here, it was really sad because of how much damage there was so I really like helping so that way I know that I’m helping my community,” Benes said.
If it’s tough for an outsider like Annabelle Benes who believes such a natural disaster is devastating for this close-knit community.
Henry Mans’ mom, Emma Hardy, said she’s grateful for the volunteers and relieved her house is still standing.
But Hardy is also a landlord here.
Before the flood, she and her husband leased a house just down the street to another family. Then, during the flood, Hardy watched as that house began to sink slowly into the ground. Now, only the red trimmed roof sticks up from the dirt.
Hardy’s tenants have nothing left now and Hardy said it’ll cost her family a lot too.
“We have lost everything on that," Hardy said. "We still have a mortgage on this so that house is going to cripple us. I don’t know financially where we’ll be at at the end of the day. We’ll have to go into foreclosure. So that’s the scary part of it all really.”
Hardy said it’s not just money she’s lost but also intangible things.
“I love living here," Hardy said. "I don’t like living in Boulder. I don’t want to be a city girl.”
Hardy laments, saying the hardest thing to lose is a lifestyle. "Some days are good, some days aren’t,” Hardy said.
Hardy’s son, Henry Mans, agreed but says there are some positives when it comes to living in the big city.
“You’re closer to a lot of things, like you can actually walk to the movies," Mans said. "That’s something I’ve never been able to do."
It will be months before locals return to some semblance of normal life, something that Henry Mans describes as "doing Jamestown things.”
For now, people in Jamestown are getting used to dividing their lives between two different worlds.