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Families in northern Colorado remember devastating 2013 floods

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LYONS, Colo.  -- 9/11 carries with it a lot of emotion for people in northern Colorado.

It's not just the anniversary of the  terrorist attacks, but it's the same day, in 2013, that the heavens unleashed torrential rains affecting 24 counties.

One of the most devastated communities was Big Elk Meadows north of Lyons, home to 1,200 residents.

The relentless rains didn't bring down a fragile wind chime outside the Hammonds' home in the 400 block of Big Elk Road.

"I never seen it rain as hard. The drops of water were this big,” said homeowner Jack Hammonds, as he makes a circle with his fingers the size of a 50-cent piece.

But it nearly took their home and destroyed everything inside it.

"First, (water) started shooting in by the door jam, like a big squirt gun -- all of a sudden boom," Hammonds said.

It knocked down the kitchen door and the river started pouring in.

"We had mud and debris probably this high in the house," said Jack’s wife, Aleta, measuring about 2 feet high.

They grabbed their disabled daughter and raced to the second level, then saw their dog's kennel floating toward the house.

"If (the kennel) hadn't hung onto this deck, he would have been gone," Jack Hammonds said.

Ruger, their puppy German shepherd, was safe.  But then part of their deck dissolved. They waited more than two days until a Black Hawk helicopter plucked them from their home.

"You don't realize, I don't think, how we need water and it's necessary for life. But it can turn on you," Aleta Hammonds said.

The floods washed out the road in front of their home along with U.S. 36. So they couldn't return home for two months. And when they did, they realized the scope of devastation.

"(The house) had mold. Everything had to be removed down to the studs. The floor was taken off down to the dirt. The siding. Everything had to be taken out. It was completely gutted," Aleta Hammonds said.

But then they discovered the good that would come out of the bad.

"If it hadn't been for the volunteers. I'd have probably went over the edge," Jack Hammonds said.

He was especially appreciative of the Moose Lodge in Longmont that brought them food and clothing.

"That's the main thing to reach out for help. (Larimer County Long Term Recovery Group) connect you with the people you need (Loveland Housing, in particular). We had volunteers from Lyons, Minnesota, Wisconsin, Florida," Aleta Hammonds said.

Today, the Hammond's have a little less privacy. The flood took out about half the trees and bushes along the road. And what was a pasture with a barn now looks like an outcropping of rocks.

The creek that once rushed with danger is nearly dry, but the family's gratitude is overflowing.

"People lost their homes, a few lost their lives. So we were very, very fortunate," Aleta Hammonds said.

"There's more good people in this world than you think," Jack Hammonds said.

The state repositioned U.S. 36 and Little Thompson River to try to prevent a tragedy like this from happening again.

The Hammonds said they still have work to do on their property, like foundation work, and cleaning off grit inside tools and motorcycles.

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