My cousin Jerry Shaffer no stranger to living a hard life in the mountains. Here is an article on the flood there in 1976, in which he nearly lost his life....
I found this searching the Big Thompson Flood that my cousin (Jerry Shaffer)
was in 1976... ancestory.com Memory of 1976 Flood
Memory of 1976 Flood
Marta Norton (View posts)
Posted: 22 Jun 2000 6:00AM GMT
Surnames: Shaffer, Lee
The Denver Rocky Mountain News
Wednesday, June 14, 2000; page 36A
Writen by Lynn Bartels, News Staff Writer
FIRE KINDLES MEMORY OF '76 FLOOD
Blaze scary, but at least 'there's time to get out'
Drake - Jerry Shaffer knows disaster, whether it's a wall of fire burning on a mountain behind him or a wall of water ripping away the friend in his arms.
The survivor of the Big Thompson flood sees one big difference between the July 31, 1976, tragedy and the one still unfolding in Larimer County:
"This is scary, but at least there's time to get out," said the 46-year-old man whose tidy yellow house next to a resturant where evacuees of the Bobcat fire are holed up waiting for information.
Shaffer's home isn't threatened yet, but that hasn't stopped his eldest daughter, 13-year-old Lacy, from gathering the things she wants saved, just in case.
Her saxophone, the dress she wore when her father remarried, the autobiography she wrote for a class project that details how she was born in a blizzard and doesn't like to eat at restaurants.
Shaffer was 22 when 12 inches of rain fell in Big Thompson Canyon in one night. The fire chief's wife knocked on his door and said there was 3 feet of water headed their way and they might want to take care of their irrigation pumps in the river.
Shaffer estimated the water level was 4 feet below the nearest bridge when he loosened the first bolt on the pump. In the minutes it took to remove the fourth bolt, the water was lapping the bridge.
"That's how fast the water was rising," he said. "It was scary."
At the time, Shaffer lived next door to his landloards, Mary and Ely Lee, and was dating their daughter, Sandy. He checked on them and discovered Ely Lee had gone to free his birds from their cages near the river.
Shaffer went to help Lee, and they became victims of the raging river.
"I kept hold of Ely and we were just tumbling downstream until I managed to grad this tree," Shaffer said. "It was pitch black, and you couldn't see anything unless there was lightning; and one time when it hit, Ely said, 'Oh my God.'
A 19-foot wall of water carrying houses, cars and hissing propane tanks came stright at them.
"Ely went limp in my arms. I don't know if he drowned or had a heart attack," Shaffer said recalling how he lost his friend and again was swept down the river.
Shaffer landed in a clump of trees where his own camper shell also had lodged. He pulled mattresses from the shell and put them in the treetops, where he spent a harrowing night.
His house was gone. His neck was fractured. He was bruised and cut.
But Shaffer considered himself one of the lucky ones. He was alive, but 145 of his friends and neighbors, including Ely Lee, were not.
The sight Tuesday of people fleeing the fire has rekindled those memories.
"If you go up and talk to some of these guys coming down from the fire," he said, "they'll tell you it's an inferno up there, with 50-foot walls of fire.
Contact Lynn Bartels at (303)892-5405 or bartelsl@RockyMountainNews.com
Read how The Shaffer's are a Part of Drake Colorado History...River Forks Inn Drake Colorado History-Shaffer Family