Warren Airmen aid those affected by Colorado flooding

  • Published
  • By R.J. Oriez
  • 90th Missile Wing Public Affairs
The news of the flooding in Northern Colorado hit very close to home for Maj. Darrel Johnson, 90th Missile Wing command post chief.

"I actually was a resident of Longmont about two years ago, prior to being assigned to F.E. Warren," Johnson said. And, he knows about the kind of damage floods can do. He had seen flooding destroy a town before.

"I was in Grand Forks, N.D., in 1996 when the Red River decided to flow the reverse way," he said.

Johnson called a friend in Longmont asking her if she knew of anybody who needed help.

"She put a call out to some of her friends and family and passed on my contact information," Johnson said.

His information found its way to Deedra Moats whose home of six months had been flooded.

"It was just me and my husband, because we just moved here a few years ago so we don't have any family here," Moats said. Then a co-worker sent her an email saying she had some friends if she needed help.

"I said 'I need some friends,'" Moats said. Her co-worker passed on Johnson's phone number and Moats gave him a call.

"He organized it all," Moats said.

"I put the call out once I got the notification," Johnson said. "Obviously, even though we are in a different state, we're still community. Just because there's a state border between us doesn't mean we're not willing to help."

As the small caravan of cars carrying F.E. Warren Air Force Base Airmen drove into Longmont, Colo., on a sunny Saturday morning, down Colorado State Highway 66 there was no sign of the massive flood damage that had been playing out in national news. As they turned onto Main Street and then Mountain View Drive there was little debris to be seen, no high-water marks.

Then they arrived at their destination, Columbia Drive. In the space of one block, the scenery went from normal, everyday vistas to destruction all around.

"I just can't believe how drastic it was," said Senior Airman Emily McDonald, 90th MW command post. "It looked fine and then, all of a sudden, you got to the road and it was just decimated from there on. I just couldn't believe the difference."

The Airmen made it through a Colorado National Guard checkpoint and carefully down the street crowded with piles of debris, volunteers and equipment before pulling into Moats' driveway.

Five days earlier, the St. VRain River was still flowing through her garage and filling her basement.

The volunteers quickly got to work pulling up tile from the ground floor, carefully removing broken glass from the basement windows and ripping out ruined installation.

Airman 1st Class Donald Neal, 90th Civil Engineer Squadron structures shop, climbed into the house's crawlspace to inspect the underside of the floor for damage.

"I'm here volunteering, using the skills the Air Force has given me, to try to help out people," Neal said.

The onslaught of volunteers brought tear to Moats' eyes. She found the sound of the crew smashing the tile on the first floor of the house her family had just moved into in April a little overwhelming.

"It wasn't the floor," Moats said. "It was the amount of force and the amount of people who were in there helping. You could just hear it in the sound of the crushing tiles. That really got to me."

As Johnson's volunteers finished up their tasks in the Moats home, they moved on to neighbors helping to remove fences that had been knocked down by the water and replace dirt that had been washed away from lawns exposing irrigation systems.

Moats explained this was not supposed to happen here. The neighborhood is not on a known floodplain.

"None of us have flood insurance. None of us," Moats said.

Johnson stressed that he planned on coming back and bring any Airman who wanted to come with him.

"I will be coming back down here regardless if I have one other person with me or if I have 20 other people," Johnson said.

"You can just tell by the devastation that these folks are going to be working for a long time," Johnson said. "Every single man-hour, doing whatever they need, will help them out tremendously. More than words can express."

"Volunteers will definitely still be needed," he added, "because there is manual labor and tasks to be completed that is beyond the homeowners' capacity."

Johnson asked that anyone interested in volunteering for the continuing effort contact him by email.

"I can guarantee that, if you come back months later, the effort of rebuilding will still be going on," Johnson said. "You're still going to need volunteers who are out there providing assistance to the homeowners in need."