Awakened at 1am, September 11, 2013, by a 911 tone, Captain Eno Compton accompanied the fire chief in fire engine across a dam swollen with flood waters to the extent the Big Elk fire truck was lifted and hit a spillway wall. They reached the other side to find a stranded Deputy Sheriff who reported the roads were gone, that the five dams were in danger of failing, all of which did fail by late afternoon. The Colorado Flood on September 12, 2013, left the community of Big Elk Meadows isolated and crippled.
Big Elk Meadows, near Rocky Mountain National Park, home to 165 full and part-time residents, is located 5 miles from the nearest highway. The only access between Big Elk Meadows and the outside world is via one road that follows along the Little Thompson River. That road was destroyed and any access to supplies as well.
Brother Compton helped build a crude road to support ATV traffic. With the new road available for restricted use, Eno installed a water system in his house. The water had to be trucked in. His system became a prototype for many other houses and his truck became the envy of the neighborhood and was borrowed for others? water trips.
An immediate overwhelming need was vehicular access in and out to supply the community with fuel and water. The road was hopeless. During the evacuation of 108 residents, Eno left Big Elk on a National Guard Chinook helicopter and immediately began to look for an alternate route back. Eno headed back into the community to be part of the 13 who remained throughout the months for the initial recovery and reconstruction.
He rented an airplane to survey the situation from the air but the FAA had established a temporary flight restriction up to 15000 feet. Can?t see much detail from that height.
Finally, he found an 11 mile route through the national forest which ATVs could transit. This meant without access to his truck in the community he needed to buy a new truck, a trailer, and an ATV. First he worked with two others trying to get back into Big Elk. They built a bridge with aspen trees and scrap lumber.
With rudimentary access established, Eno salvaged washed out culverts with which to build temporary roads inside the community. He helped the Exede satellite contractor set up internet for the firehouse.
Brother Compton rented an excavator and spent 10 weeks of his life repairing roads.
Note: Brother Compton and I, Jim Hughes, are Pledge Brothers. He was amazing back in 1967 and he is still amazing today. My thanks go out to his wife, Donna, for writing this article and supplying the pictures.