Longmont industrial area hit hard
“The good part is the people,” McLean said Sept. 17, noting that some of the volunteers were members of his church, although he didn’t know where all had come from. “I think there’s just volunteers here who are good people. For people to come out here and do this, it’s absolutely terrific.”
Ignoring the business implications of the natural disaster, though, was impossible. At one point, McLean looked down and with his foot flipped over a part that his injection molding company – officially named HisArmCo Inc., but doing business as WP Manufacturing – had made for a customer.
“That’s a $10 bill,” he said.
Such scenes were playing out up and down Boston Avenue, one of the areas of town where businesses were hit hardest by the floodwaters that for a couple of days divided Longmont into disconnected northern and southern halves.
Brad Power, Longmont director of economic development, said it would take some time for city officials to land an official count of businesses affected. He and his staff had been too busy dealing with life safety issues and helping with various other relief efforts.
“I’m frankly amazed at how many are reopened,” Power said a week after the flooding had begun. “People are working pretty hard out there to get back going.”
While almost all vowed to be back in business, many knew the road to recovery would be a long one. Damage estimates for many ranged from the thousands to the millions of dollars.
Record rainfall pummeled the Front Range, starting Sept. 9 and lasting nearly a week. On Sept. 12, Boulder County’s rivers and creeks could no longer contain all the water. In Longmont, the St. Vrain River and Left Hand Creek overflowed all the way through town before eventually converging on the east side.
Harvest Junction, a shopping center that straddles Colorado Highway 119 in the southeast part of town, saw flooding on both sides of the road, although most of those businesses reopened within a couple days after the rain subsided. The same went for the area of South Main Street where Lefthand Creek crosses it. Businesses near First Avenue and Main also were affected.
Recovery along and near Boston Avenue, to the west of Main, will take more time.
Once floodwaters receded, the scene along Boston from Sunset Street to Price Road looked like something out of the old West, with vehicles instead of stagecoaches kicking up dust from the mud-packed street. The water that impacted that area most, however, didn’t come directly from the nearby St. Vrain River but via the St. Vrain-swamped Izaak Walton Park to the north, where a pond burst through its banks.
Left Hand Brewing Co., right next to the St. Vrain, saw minimal flooding in its buildings and had opened its tap room by Sept. 16. Beer was being brewed again the next day. But 50 yards to the east, Sun Construction saw eight inches of water in its building. Across the street from Sun, commercial and residential maintenance company Panorama Coordinated Services got about two feet. Farther east, businesses such as WP Manufacturing and The Corvette Spa saw two to three feet of water in their buildings.
“Compared to our neighbors, we’re pretty lucky,” said Chris Lennert, vice president of operations for Left Hand, which celebrated its 20th anniversary in part by raising money for flood relief at Longmont Oktoberfest on Sept. 20-21.
Panorama owner Pete Storz said his company had been able to get most of its main assets – vehicles and equipment – out of its building to a different location before the flood waters hit. His software and client data were backed up in the cloud. Despite having plenty of flood damage to clean up in his building, Panorama was operating as usual on Sept. 17. Storz had no damage estimate but said he had insurance to cover most of it.
Not everyone could say the same.
Owner Curt Ingram of Corvette Spa, a high-performance and auto-restoration shop, said he had no flood insurance to cover his estimated $75,000 to $80,000 in damage to equipment and customers’ cars. He was working with the Small Business Administration instead to see what sort of aid or loans were available. Ingram said he’d likely be out of business three to four weeks while his landlord repaired the building.
“It will not put me out of business,” Ingram said. “We’re just set back.”
Next door at Main Street Import, a small used-car dealer and repair shop that had just relocated to the spot in May, owner Andy Im estimated more than $100,000 in damage. Im, who also had no flood insurance, said the flood wouldn’t put him out of business but that he’d be “starting back at rock bottom.”
Across the street, WP Manufacturing’s flood insurance policy was capped at $500,000, well short of the estimated $2.5 million to $3 million McLean estimated he had in damage and inventory loss. McLean had the added issue of the city condemning his 45,000-square-foot building because of structural damage at the northwest corner that included washed-out ground at the foundation, a portion of flooring that heaved and a hole in the wall caused by flood debris.
McLean, who bought the company in 2008, had moved it to the Boston Avenue location in April 2012, making it tough to watch piles of brand new carpet pulled out into the parking lot. Still, McLean said if his machinery “behaved” once it was cleaned up and structural issues with the building were fixed, the company could be back in production soon. WP’s facility in Mexico could help pick up some of the slack in the meantime.
“On-time delivery is going to be a challenge,” McLean said, adding that he was confident that the business would bounce back.
Like WP, Budget Home Center’s flood insurance policy was capped at $500,000. Owner Butch Vernon estimated $500,000 to $1 million in damage to the hardware store. Located a couple blocks east of WP at Boston and South Pratt Parkway, Budget saw only about an inch of mud and water in the 80,000-square-foot store, and Vernon said inventory there was fine. In a lower building at the back of the property where pre-hung doors and countertops are made, however, Vernon said five feet of floodwater had destroyed all inventory.
Nonetheless, Budget Home Center’s 45 employees were allowed back in the building on Sept. 15, and the store was open two days later. Like McLean, Vernon lauded his employees for their efforts and resilience. When he first saw the damage, said Vernon, who is nearing retirement, he wanted to “hop in a Winnebago and head for Arizona.” Those feelings quickly faded as the cleanup efforts began.
“We have no plans but to fight on,” Vernon said.
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