Rifle resident’s eyes opened by flood damage on Front Range | PostIndependent.com

Rifle resident’s eyes opened by flood damage on Front Range

Kalina Granville/Contributed Photo
Staff Photo |

Kalina Granville of Rifle likely has many life experiences ahead of her.

But the 20-year-old already has one that will probably be at the forefront of her memory for years to come, after spending three and a half weeks helping repair a highway damaged by the Front Range floods in September.

As most people would likely suspect, the experience was “a huge eye opener” for Granville.

“There was this small community that was completely cut off and the only way they could get to work each day was to walk two miles on this trail they built themselves,” she said, to reach their vehicles. “We really got to know the people. They would bring us donuts and cookies, and the Red Cross was there, too.”

Flood waters washed out 200- to 400-foot long sections of the highway and left river banks that were 15 feet high, Granville added.

“It was quite the experience,” she said. “I loved it.”

Signing up a sure move

Granville and her family moved to Rifle when she was 15 years old, she dropped out of Rifle High School in her junior year with just two credits needed to graduate and enlisted in the Colorado Army National Guard in 2011.

“I finished basic training before my classmates graduated,” she said. “It was just something I knew I wanted to do.”

With the Colorado Army National Guard, Granville learned how to be a horizontal construction engineer and heavy equipment operator. She and her sister, Giana, 21, also of Rifle, are stationed with the 947th Engineers Unit in Montrose. Along with her sister, the unit includes Carlos Rodriguez of Rifle.

The unit left for the Estes Park area on Sept. 17 to help repair U.S. Highway 36, which was heavily damaged by the Little Big Thompson River and connects Estes Park to Lyons.

“We drove all our equipment over there and it took 20 hours,” Granville said.

While there, Granville operated heavy equipment, mostly dump trucks, but also had ax and shovel duty to help rid an area of damaged trees and create space to park the equipment.

It rained most of the days Granville was there, and that included her 20th birthday.

“I actually forgot it because we worked so much,” she said. “It was at least 12 hours a day, pretty much non-stop. We usually ate our lunches in the trucks so we could keep working.”

But members of her unit did sing “Happy Birthday” at the end of the day.

Behind the scenes help

While Granville was moving dirt and rocks to help with flood repairs, Rifle Governmental Affairs Coordinator Kimberly Bullen helped coordinate repairs and recovery efforts for the Boulder County emergency management department. She held that position in Mesa County and has 10 years experience dealing with disasters.

“So we worked with all the local towns and cities and helped bring in emergency funds,” Bullen said.

Between Sept. 15-19, she helped Boulder County coordinate with county assessors and attended meetings to help determine what areas needed the quickest attention.

“I had been involved in emergency management for a blizzard in southeast Colorado, but I don’t think people can really appreciate how extensive this damage was unless they see it first hand,” Bullen said. “Water was percolating up from the ground four days after the floods. It was just saturated.”

During her four days in Boulder, Bullen was paid her usual city salary. Her travel expenses were covered by the state, she said.

Eye opening experience

Granville’s unit was activated to help with the flooding repairs on Sept. 17 and were released on Oct. 7. It took the unit three and a half weeks to make their stretch of flood-damaged highway usable again, then they were replaced by a unit of the Utah National Guard, Granville said.

Granville enlisted for a six-year hitch with the National Guard and can be called back another two years. She said she isn’t sure what she will end up doing when her hitch is up. Now a private first class, Granville said she is due for a promotion. She could become an active member of the National Guard, too.

In Rifle, Granville worked for the city public works department and recently transferred to the police department, where she is being trained as a records clerk. She has applied for the records clerk position, which is full-time, she added.

Her time helping move dirt and rocks and interacting with the residents directly affected by the floods was a “big eye opener,” Granville said.

“It really made me realize that you can’t just focus on material needs, because look what happened,” she stated. “So many people lost their homes and cars. It made me realize how important it is to focus on the people in our lives, because those are the ones that are important.”

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