Sunday, September 15, 2013

Floods in Globeville

Globeville has suffered its share of floods over the years whenever heavy rain or record amounts of snow melt caused the usually sleepy Platte River to run out of its banks. There were periodic attempts to correct the situation, including a WPA project during the 1930s that redirected parts of the river and installed riprap along the banks. But the neighborhood, like much of Denver, would be forever changed by the 1965 Platte River Flood.
Streams were already running high with continuous rain and heavy spring run off when a cloudburst on Wednesday afternoon, June 16, dropped record amounts of moisture over an area south of Denver. Six inches of rain at Palmer Lake and three more at Cherry Creek Reservoir caused the Platte River to grow to a 20-foot high wall of water that carried mud, cars, trailers, dead animals, parts of houses, trees and propane tanks and headed toward Denver. Police set up barricades to bridges and viaducts that crossed the Platte, and kept traffic from using the low-lying Valley Highway. Debris slammed against bridges, propane tanks exploded, power outages darkened much of the city and  radio and television stations struggle to stay on the air. The river spread across the rail yards close to Globeville as emergency sirens wailed and the National Guard went door to door in the neighborhood ordering residents to higher ground.Dorothy and John Nevelos lived on Arkins Court, right along the Platte River. Dorothy recalls, “The emergency sirens were blowing and we had seen the story on the TV news...with the trailers and boxcars in the river. John stacked as much stuff as we could on top of the furniture and we left.” Dorothy and John were fortunate; the river spilled over on the other side and their home was untouched.Others were not so lucky. The rail yards, the Slovenian Gardens, the Polish hall, Transfiguration Cathedral, the Old Saw Mill and the meat packing plants all sustained damage. Marvin Pepper recalled, "We had just remodeled the plant [Pepper Packing] but the force of the flood caused meat hanging on high rails to fall. All of it was contaminated and condemned." The city's Northside Treatment Plant shut down when the power failed and raw sewage spilled into the river, and backed up through drains into people's homes. Lalo C. de Baca recalls, "We didn't really get flooded by the river but by the sewage plant. Everything was ruined." 
There were two fatalities in Globeville associated with the flood. On Thursday morning, the body of Adam Haffnieter was found floating in three feet of water near East 48th Avenue and Lincoln Street. He and his wife Molly had left their home at 4726 Sherman about 7 pm Wednesday night to stay with a relative. Adam had decided to return to his home about 10:30 pm after he heard reports of looting in the area. His body was discovered by police the next morning, and it appeared he had suffered a heart attack. 
Madfa (Matt) and Olga Davidovich were seriously burned when the furnace in their home at 4777 Logan exploded on Thursday morning. Like their neighbors, they had been evacuated from the area, but returned after the flood crest had passed. Olga lit the stove to prepare breakfast, igniting gas that had accumulated in the home. Olga would survive the blast but Matt would not. 
The National Guard would remain in Globeville all summer and Public Service would help residents pump water, clean and light furnaces furnaces as neighbors helped each other put things back in order. But church and lodge records as well as family photos and heirlooms would be lost forever.
Globeville still lies in a flood plain, but is less likely to suffer the same kind of catastrophe since the completion of a flood-control project in June of 2008.

Body of Man Found Afloat Near Home, Denver Post, Thursday, June 17, 1965
Furnace Explosion Burns Two, Denver Post, Thursday, June 17, 1965

Lincoln Street at 45th Avenue in June, 1927
photo used with written permission from Lauren Summers

Rail yards June 1965
Denver Public Library