LYONS -- Hundreds of Lyons families were able to begin moving back into their homes this weekend as utility crews circulated through several of the town's neighborhoods to restore flood-interrupted natural gas, water and sewer service.
And starting Monday, visitors from outside Lyons can once again get into town during daytime hours to resume patronizing the town's businesses and visiting the town's residents, according to town administrator Victoria Simonsen.
Some residents, like Ruth Corwin and her husband, Scott, hadn't waited until Saturday to get back into their house.
The Corwins, who have lived at 835 1/2 Fourth Ave. for about 22 years, have been "camping out at home" for the past 2 1/2 weeks, Ruth Corwin said, after being dissatisfied with the federally subsidized temporary housing options they tried to find elsewhere.
"Most everybody" from their neighborhood "was gone" when the Corwins returned, but "people have started filtering back," she said.
Water and natural gas got turned back on as of Saturday, and "now we'll be able to take a shower at home," Ruth Corwin said. "We're extremely happy about that."
Eric Janik joked that after last month's torrential rains, "our lawn has never been healthier" at his home at 214 Stickney St. "This afternoon, I'll be cutting the grass."
The Janik family has been living with friends in Berthoud and has been back a couple of times since having to evacuate last month. Eric Janik said his house hadn't experienced much damage -- "just a little seepage in the crawl space."
He said he came back home Friday night to avoid what he feared might be a traffic jam of returning flood evacuees and to be sure he'd be there when Xcel crews showed up to turn on his natural gas Saturday.
Xcel, which town officials said had about 65 workers in Lyons on Saturday, was requiring that someone over age 18 must be present at a home and remain there while Xcel lighted the home's pilot lights.
Janik, who had both his natural gas and water service restored by midmorning Saturday, was then joined by his wife, Wanda, and their daughter Emily, a Colorado State University student. Wanda Janik said they'll be trying to complete their return this weekend.
One Xcel worker said that the company had a list of 863 Lyons homes where it would be attempting to turn the gas back on by Saturday night. Simonsen said that as of about 5 p.m., Xcel reported having reconnected nearly 700 of those homes and would be continuing that effort into the night.
Marc Hunter and his wife, Mary, had their water turned on Saturday morning, but were waiting for an Xcel crew member to arrive at their 434 Seward St. home as of late Saturday morning while daughters Avery, 5, and Vivienne, 3, played outside. It was "the first time we've brought them back," the girls' father said, since the family was evacuated.
The Hunters have been living in Boulder in the meantime, returning to Lyons once or twice a week to check out the house during the time.
Marc, a woodworker who makes custom cabinets and furniture out of a shop behind his home, said he'd found a location in Boulder to allow him to carry on that work. His wife, a home-based marketing agent, was able to carry on with a laptop and telephone from their temporary living quarters.
The Hunter girls have been attending preschool and kindergarten in Longmont -- a situation expected to continue until early December -- and "we've been driving between Boulder and Longmont several times a day," Marc Hunter said. He said the family probably will not complete the move back into the Lyons home for another couple of weeks.
After the flooding, Roxanne Smith and her husband, Dennis, "stayed until we had to go" from their home at 431 Seward St., with Roxanne leaving Sept. 14 and Dennis on Sept. 15.
The Smiths, along with adult son Andrew, have been among the temporary tenants at Longmont's Best Western Plaza Hotel since then, waiting for the utilities restoration that was completed at their house Saturday morning.
"I don't mind being in a hotel," said Roxanne Smith, who works at Precise Cables in Longmont. But "I don't want to go on vacation for a while," she joked
Dennis Smith, who works at Phillips Stone Co. near Lyons, agreed, saying: "It's good to get home."
Power, gas, water and sewer service is back on in about half of Lyons' neighborhoods now -- most of them north of Main Street -- and other residents of the area are expected to be returning in phases as their neighborhoods' utilities are back working in the weeks ahead.
Conducting a partial return Saturday was Cathy Christiansen, who said she might have tried to "brave it out" last month and might have attempted to stay at her Fourth Avenue home where she's lived for 10 years. But she was recovering from collarbone and foot surgeries after injuries she'd suffered in a pre-flood cycling accident.
Christiansen, who works for White Wave Foods in Broomfield, said she's missed the people in her neighborhood while living with her mother in Denver. She said a friend watched the vacated homes in the area while its occupants were away, and "I gave him free reign of my pantry."
Christiansen said she expects things will be more "back to normal" for her, her neighbors, and much of the rest of Lyons by next week, when she intends to complete her return.
Across the street and a few houses down Fourth Avenue from Christiansen's is the home of Mark Longtin, who also had his gas and water service turned back on Saturday.
Longtin, a mechanic for AirLife Denver, said he and his wife, Katie, and their 14-month-old son, Stone, have been living with family in Littleton, returning occasionally to check on the house and water the plants.
Longtin said he, his wife and their son were all "real excited" about being able to move back into the Lyons home they'd lived in for about six months before the flood, which got "a little water" but no structural damage.
Longtin said his family was also "a little nervous" about their own ability to return, though, because while "we were relatively high and dry," there's "still a lot of destruction" elsewhere in town.
Many of the families returning home Saturday -- as well as other Lyons residents who don't yet have utility service, but who showed up to once again check their houses in the meantime -- were expected later to trek downtown for the town's "Spooktacular Halloween" activities.
Simonsen said that beginning Monday, people will no longer have to produce daytime proof at checkpoints that they're residents, owners or employees of Lyons businesses, or contractors working at those homes or businesses, in order to enter the down.
However, the checkpoints will continue to be in place between 6 p.m. and 6 a.m., nighttime hours when non-residents won't be allowed to drive in, Simonsen said.
John Fryar can be reached at 303-684-5211 or firstname.lastname@example.org.