More than three weeks after a historic flood swept through the Front Range, Boulder County officials still do not have a firm grasp on just how much damage the floodwaters caused -- and they may not for several more months.
The Boulder County Assessor's Office has begun trying to catalogue damaged and destroyed homes as well as calculate the value of the damaged property. But Assessor Jerry Roberts said his office may not have a total on the destroyed homes until November and probably won't be able to get a total on damaged houses until early 2014.
"It's just the nature of the work, with the size of this disaster and the time of year when it hit," Roberts said.
He said access to many areas of the county is still difficult because of damage to roads and flood debris, and there are homes assessors may not be able to reach any time soon.
In addition, October is when the county's board of equalization meets to resolve property value appeals. Roberts said those hearings are required by statute, and they will take resources away from the flood work.
"All of my appraisers will be in hearings every day for the next few weeks," Roberts said. "I just have no staffing to make a significant dent. We're working with every resource we can muster to do that, but we just haven't gotten to the point where I can report anything."
Boulder County Commissioner Cindy Domenico said doing damage assessment for the flood has been much more difficult than for other disasters, such as the Fourmile Fire in 2010.
"When the Fourmile Fire went through, it either completely destroyed a home or left it alone," she said. "With the flood, we have homes that are 50-50, 30-70, 70-30. It's hard to know the damage without physically walking into every one of them."
Domenico added that with winter approaching, the primary concern is fixing roads and allowing people to return to their homes.
"We're trying to get people back to their homes and focusing more on the transportation infrastructure than the building piece," she said. "We're just trying to get people moving toward neighborhoods, and we still have some challenges there."
Other departments and cities in the county have tried to compile damage numbers but have also encountered difficulties.
In the early days of the flooding, the Boulder Office of Emergency Management was providing some preliminary numbers on damaged and destroyed homes, but those numbers were being compiled by search and rescue teams going door-to-door on live-rescue missions in the foothills.
Federal Emergency Management Agency spokesman Bill Rukeyser said with the rescue missions complete, FEMA is not compiling numbers of damaged and destroyed homes because the agency only deals with those who request FEMA assistance.
Boulder County conducted a rapid assessment of damaged homes in Jamestown, Lyons and the unincorporated parts of the county and determined 349 residences were destroyed, 428 had major damage and 3,426 had minor damage.
Mike Banuelos, of the city of Boulder, said crews did a quick assessment of the city and gave structures one of three tags: green, yellow or red. Green tags meant the structure was safe; yellow meant there were concerns related to the structure, electrical or mechanical systems; and red meant the property was unsafe to enter.
Banuelos said 59 structures in Boulder were given yellow tags and 13 were given red tags. He said in the next few weeks crews will need to go back and do a more in-depth inspection of houses in flooded areas.
"We don't know about basement flooding since we didn't enter any homes yet, and we still don't have any monetary figures," Banuelos said.
Both Boulder County and the city of Boulder have issued reports to FEMA with preliminary totals for infrastructure and facility damage, though they have been able to make little progress on evaluating homes. Boulder County reported $91.2 million in damage, and the city of Boulder reported $49 million in damage, primarily to open space.
It will likely be months before Boulder County is able to put specific numbers on the devastation caused by the flooding, but Domenico said officials are continuing to make progress every day.
"There have been assessors in the field numerous days since the storm happened and they are doing the very best they can do to see as much as possible," she said. "I think we're making progress every day, getting an idea of what has been damaged."
Contact Camera Staff Writer Mitchell Byars at 303-473-1329 or firstname.lastname@example.org.