Change: Jamestown After the Flood

‘I’ve been to many disasters but I can say I’ve never been to a stronger community, as I said before, the determination, strength, and gratitude was inspirational. You Jimtowners are the model of how a community should come together after such an event. If I could bottle the spirit of Jamestown I would call it ‘Mountain Strong’. ~Scott W, FEMA Inspector

The three-day traumatic flood event started in Jamestown, Colorado on Sept 11, 2013, one hundred years plus one after the last 100-year flood hit the tiny mountain town, population of 276, northwest of Boulder, Colorado. The floods were triggered by epic rains of 4 – 6′′ that fell in less than twelve hours due to a flow of extremely moist air from the southeast that pushed up against the mountains. The town patriarch was killed when his house collapsed under a mudslide. Twenty percent of the homes, fifty percent of the roads, both bridges, the water plant and the fire hall were all lost. The surge of water to Little James Creek and James Creek was about 3 times the typical rate of a 100-year flood – fourteen inches of rain fell in 48 hours. The creek carved a new path.

Change: Jamestown After the Flood documents the rebuilding of this unique mountain town from October 2013 through June 2017 with the focus on the inevitable changes/transformations, personal, physical and communal, that accompany the rebuilding of a town after a flood event. A time-lapse camera was initially installed on a resident’s deck in March 2014 to capture some of the rebuilding process as it occurred. The camera moved as the construction moved.

“4 rivers formed and ran, one with the power of the Colorado River, and tore us apart into 4 islands. Numbers stupefy, data shuts down my mind. Stories enliven.” ~ Oak Chezar, Jamestown Resident

I interviewed Jamestown residents who lost their homes and those who did not. I interviewed residents who were evacuated by plane as well as those residents who chose not to be evacuated but rather to remain in Jamestown. I interviewed people who returned quickly to Jamestown and those who decided to remain in Boulder or surrounding towns longer or even permanently.

In this short film with its focus on change, Jamestown residents tell their stories about their personal change as well as the communal Jamestown change. The film also documents the physical changes to the natural world including the geography, geology, flora and fauna of Jamestown.

We are collaborating with the Boulder Library’s Oral History Program and will be archiving the interviews with the program as part of their local oral history collection contributing to the recording of our community history.

This documentary will have universal appeal as the rebuilding of towns becomes more common with the increase in extreme weather events. Experience with natural disasters will lead to improvements in the evacuation and rebuilding process. Unlike the Hurricane Katrina evacuees, the Jamestown evacuees and their pets were not separated which greatly reduced the stress and confusion for both the people and the animals.

I am excited and honored to have been a part of documenting this historic and important piece of Boulder County history with its wide appeal, relevance and universal audience.