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Mitigation Saves House and Lifestyle along Creek

BOULDER, CO – A stone wall and a little extra elevation saved Mark Schueneman’s home along Left Hand Creek during the September 2013 floods. Schueneman’s house was surrounded by damaged residences in Boulder County, one of the hardest hit areas.

The home was spared because Schueneman opted to elevate his home as he was advised by the Boulder County Emergency Manager.

Given his proximity to the floodplain, he was advised to build an additional two feet of freeboard above the Base Flood Elevation (BFE) to reduce his risk of flooding.

“When choosing a lot to build my house on, I specifically wanted to build near Left Hand Creek,” said Schueneman, a retired concrete contractor.

Schueneman also used his background to incorporate another mitigation effort—a rock barrier surrounding his house. This wall was designed to ward off wildfires and to help steer water away from the house.

These mitigation efforts were put to the test in September. Schueneman spent most of the night monitoring stream depth. Once Schueneman noticed that the creek began rising faster, he warned his neighbors about the impending danger. He moved his cars to high ground and evacuated.

“Left Hand Creek was flooding like crazy and threatening to overtop; I was definitely afraid,” said Schueneman. “I know when a storm drops that much water it saturates the ground. The steep canyons are like a funnel and the water siphons to the lower canyon where we are.”

The next day, Schueneman found his mitigation efforts had been successful as he walked to his home because of road closures. His home was above the floodwaters. Water had climbed up three of the home’s steps, but had not entered the house.

Although Schueneman’s house wasn’t damaged, there was damage throughout the neighborhood. One of the neighbors lost the foundation of his house; another neighbor’s furnace was severely damage.

This flooding event has been Schueneman’s only experience with flooding threating his property since he built near the creek.

Schueneman, the designer and builder, began construction of the 2450-square-foot adobe dwelling in 2007 and completed it in 2008.

“I wanted to be near water. My bedroom is 40 feet from the creek and the sound of the water helps me to sleep soundly,” said Schueneman.

For additional information, visit: www.fema.gov/national-flood-insurance-program

Last updated Jun 3, 2020