LYONS, Colo. - The floods that ravaged Colorado mountain towns hit rich and poor alike. But some residents can afford to wait and rebuild, while the less affluent may never be able to return home.
Some fear the rebuilding efforts from the storms will accelerate a process that was already changing the character of the funky hamlets of the Rocky Mountain foothills.
Young, affluent families from the cities of Boulder and Denver have flocked to the town of Lyon, attracted to the slower pace of life, bohemian flavour and pristine natural beauty.
Newcomers have historically moved into the hills above Main Street, while the lower income residents lived in the flood plain below. When the storm came, it swept away mobile homes, but left the new cafes, sushi shop, and revamped high school intact.
Two low-lying mobile home parks bore the brunt of the damage. Residents say their landlords have told them they will not rebuild, in part because a river now flows through a portion of the property.
"I don't think we'll ever be able to go back," said Holly Robb, a Lyons native whose grandfather was mayor and who lived with her husband and two young children one of the parks, which dates to the 1960s.
"The people who've lived there, who've gone to school there, can't go back," she said.
Up the hill from the mobile home parks, beautiful homes sit essentially untouched, their soggy lawns the only evidence of the disaster that's crippled the region and re-routed its waterways.
At least eight people were killed and nearly 2,000 homes were damaged or destroyed in the massive flooding earlier this month.
A website for Lyon's mayor, Julie Van Domelen, a consultant for the World Bank, says she moved to the town four years ago. She told the Denver Post she intends to build Lyons into something better than it was before.
Some resident fear there will be no place for the manual labourers, retirees and artists that have given Lyons its character.
Even before the storm, the poor felt they were getting pushed out. Between 2000 and 2010, the median price of a home rose by 71 per cent to $340,000, according to the U.S. Census.
Carmel Ross, 66, an artist and caretaker for the elderly, thought about the town's future amid the splintered trailers that now surround the mobile home she rents for $430 a month.
"Who rebuilds a trailer park?" she asked, laughing through tears. "Lyons is going to become a different story now. It's a loss of a way of life. The things could always be bought again, but there will no longer be any low-income housing in this town."
Ross, who spent the days after the flood dragging out her muddy carpet singlehandedly while other flooded residents called private cleaning services, is unsure where she will go after the shelters close. Her friends do not have extra rooms for her to stay in, and she has no family in the region.
Tim Combs, a former mayor, said he feels for people like her but believes that part of the town was already on the path to getting washed out.
"It's the way this country works — the poor people are always getting pushed out, without or without a flood," he said.
Associated Press writer Hannah Dreier contributed to this story. She can be reached at http://twitter.com/hannahdreier
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