Boulder resident Henry Guzman paid $15,000 up front to bring in a restoration crew from Texas to start pumping water out of his flooded basement and begin repairs.
The company he employed was the first to answer its phones Thursday morning, just hours after a torrential rainstorm triggered historic flooding in Boulder County that collapsed homes in the foothills, ruptured roads and filled city basements with gushing floodwaters. Guzman woke up that morning to find his dogs -- which normally sleep in the finished basement of his home -- floating on his couches.
As Boulder County residents scramble to make insurance and Federal Emergency Management Agency claims, restoration and construction crews are stretched thin keeping up with the demand. The 100-year-flood will likely cause an economic boom in the construction sector, economists say. Meanwhile, some industries -- including tourism -- might take a short-term hit.
"You never hope for something like this," said University of Colorado economist Rich Wobbekind. "It's a tragedy. But you do get short-term stimulus, and construction is the industry that's going to benefit the most from this."
To meet the demand for road repairs and home construction, the state will likely see an influx of out-of-state workers.
Historically, after a natural disaster, it's common to see mobility of a workforce, said Wobbekind, executive director of the Business Research Division in the Leeds School of Business. Workers in the construction industry, he said, tend to be mobile -- much like those who work on rigs in the oil and gas industry. The construction workers flocking from out of state will add to the economy by spending money on apartments and commodities like groceries, he said.
Guzman, a sales manager at Boulder Running Co. who lives near Iris Avenue and Folsom Street, scrambled Thursday morning to get crews to his home -- and the company he ended up contracting with was based in Houston. He called the nomadic crew "stormchasers."
"We called 15 places trying to look for help, and we actually just went with whoever answered first," Guzman said. "We didn't care at that point. It was basically first come, first served. We knew with all that standing water we had to have somebody come in and get it taken care of immediately."
He said insurance agents estimate flood damage to his basement to be roughly $100,000, which he expects to be covered by a combination of flood insurance, homeowner's insurance and his claim with FEMA.
Preliminary figures updated Wednesday show that last week's flood destroyed 340 homes, while another 397 were damaged -- numbers likely to rise in coming days and weeks. Also, an early estimate showed there's at least $100 million to $150 million in damage to county roads, bridges and structures, according to the Boulder Office of Emergency Management.
Contractors 'completely booked out'
Schools and city services throughout Boulder are still gauging the extent of damage, though they are already bringing in crews of contractors to assist with the cleanup.
Alisha Thomas, business development manager at Jim Black Construction Inc., based in Thornton, said the company is entirely booked with contracts with the city of Boulder and CU.
"We are out of equipment, all of our staff is working overtime and we're completely booked out for at least the next month," she said.
The general contract company that does emergency response restoration has 20 employees working in Boulder and might consider bringing on temporary help, Thomas said.
"If the work flow continues like this, we'll need to look for temporary help," she said.
Nicole Gordon, a spokeswoman for Facilities Management at CU, said the company is working with mitigation and restoration contractors to help with the cleanup and damages. About 25 percent of the school's buildings have some kind of damage from the flood, though there are no estimates yet.
"We still have water infiltrating some of our foundation walls," Gordon said. "In addition, we still have wet areas that are taking longer to dry. It could be a couple days before we get a better handle on the costs."
Boulder Public Works spokesman Mike Banuelos said the city will be working with contractors during the rebuilding process. Boulder plans to suspend for the year a project that pays for road reconstruction and sidewalks -- diverting the money instead to high-priority road fixes.
Brian Lewandowski, a research associate at the Business Research Division at CU, said natural disasters present an interesting paradox.
"The property loss and the business loss is short-term, and we see this economic boom after we can get back on our feet and start rebuilding," he said.
Lewandowski said roads and infrastructure projects will get infused with millions of dollars.
"Some of them needed rebuilding, and this forces those updates to bridges and roads," Lewandowski said.
The U.S. Department of Transportation, for example, decided Wednesday to release $30 million in disaster assistance funds to jumpstart highway, bridge and transit repairs in Colorado following the flood.
Meanwhile, the tourism sector -- as well as restaurants and hotels -- in Colorado's mountain towns are likely to take a hit because fall is considered a busy season for them.
Subaru dealer, McGuckin busy
At Flatirons Acura-Subaru, managing partner Scott Crouch said the service side has been busy making repairs to flooded cars. He expects once insurance adjustment checks start coming in, new car sales will pick up, too.
"I'm sure we'll see a lot of business, especially given how many people in Boulder have Subarus," he said.
Over at McGuckin Hardware, which had a line of 30 to 40 people waiting for a new shipment of dehumidifiers on Wednesday, has been selling massive amounts of tools, rain boots, wet/dry vacuums and Boric acid, which marketing manager Louise Garrels said is an effective way to fight off mold.
The store was so busy over the weekend that Garrels had signs made that say "Keep Calm and McGuckin On" to hang around the store. Though McGuckin has had more customers than normal for this time of year, Garrels said mostly business has simply shifted directions.
Rather than buying school supplies or fall gardening tools, customers are purchasing respiratory masks for cleaning their homes, chainsaws for chopping up debris and pickaxes.
"The Halloween stuff? Well, who cares," she said. "But who knew that cockroach killer would be one of our top-selling items right now?"