Friday, December 13, 2013

My Best Read all Year

The best thriller I've read this year appeared in Loveland's monthly city newsletter. You know. The kind they sent with the water bill. No, I'm not kidding.

 I'm sure most of you are aware that Colorado experienced catastrophic floods this summer. It's hard to convey the degree of devastation. What most of the town didn't realize at the time was how close we came to losing our entire water supply and sewer system. We were saved by an epic engineering feat. The material I'm quoting comes from the newsletter. Here's what happened when the rains started:

First to go was the road that went to the power plant and the power lines. Then the Big Thompson River jumped its channel and headed for three water lines buried in a bed of soil and gravel.

The river scoured the land away, exposing and destroying the first line, a 20 inch pipe during the flood's first hours. Then the river buckled the joints of the second 36 inch pipeline. That left one--a 48 inch steel pipe that supplied  every home and business in Loveland. A team was assembled and an armada of equipment: five giant excavating machines, four huge bulldozers, seven front-end loaders and a fleet of trucks.

The task: Redirect the river, in full flood stage, carrying nearly 20 times its seasonal flow, from the big pipeline back to its original channel. It's unheard of to move a flooding river.

In ordinary times, anyone who so moves so much as a boulder must get formal permission from the U.S. Army Corp of Engineers, the agency that has regulatory authority over every stream, river, and lake in the nation. Urgency prevented that step. They had a nod from the agency and proceeded.

There was a 200 foot wide bar of newly deposited gravel and rock between the new Big Thompson and the old riverbed. An operator of a mammoth excavator risked his life by driving the machine into the river toward the bar. The team did not have enough material to execute plan A which would have been to build a spike dam to steer the river's flow back south. They switched to plan B. A streaming convoy of trucks carried rock and fill from a nearby quarry. They brought 80-100 foot cottonwoods upstream. They worked around the clock three days and turned the flooding river back from that remaining precious pipeline.

They did it. On the fly! It was almost incomprehensible.

Now top that,  all you writers and readers of thrillers.

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