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'He's still with us': Jamestown reflects 10 years after devastating floods killed 'patriarch' of community

2013 floods killed nine people, evacuated thousands, and caused billions in damages
'He's still with us': Jamestown reflects 10 years after devastating floods killed "patriarch" of community
Posted at 10:20 PM, Sep 12, 2023
and last updated 2023-11-08 11:19:49-05

JAMESTOWN, Colo. — Oftentimes, time does not feel linear. A decade after the devastating floods that killed nine people in Colorado, residents of Jamestown said the natural disaster sometimes feels like it happened yesterday, or that it is still hard to believe it happened at all.

On the evening of September 11, 2013, Colorado skies unleashed a downpour of rain that flooded 4,500 square-miles over a series of days. Nine people were killed, more than 19,000 people were evacuated, and more than a dozen counties were declared disaster areas.

It was one of the biggest disasters in Colorado history.

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Rainbow Schultz said the 10-year-mark of the floods is really about gratitude, both for the Jamestown community and for the strangers who helped when it was needed most.

“There's a lot of beautiful places all over the world. But what makes Jamestown, Jamestown, is the community of the people here," said Schultz. “We all live here because it's beautiful to be surrounded by this nature. And then, when this force of nature came through, it was kind of the price we had to pay to live in this spot... We're all really lucky and grateful that we're still here.”

Schultz spoke with Denver7 from the Jamestown Mercantile Cafe, where she is the chef and owner.

“I bought the restaurant from Joey, two years before the flood," Schultz said about Joey Howlett, 72, who was killed in the flood. “The father of this town, that kind of patriarch of Jamestown... He was just a really special, very open, loving person who we all really adored.”

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Schultz said Howlett was at his home when the water came rushing. A mudslide barreled into the house, and trees that had recently been impacted by fire did not slow it down.

“He was in his bed, reading a book, listening to the baseball game on the radio. Which honestly, he had even told me that's the way, if he had to go, that's the way he wanted to go. So that's like the one little peace that we all have about it, is that I think it was quick," Schultz said. “In a way, he's still with us. We feel him from time to time.”

One of the ways Howlett lived on was through his beloved cat, Shadow. Louis Maurer called Shadow the most famous cat in Colorado.

Shadow normally slept on Howlett's chest, and Jamestown residents thought the cat died in the flood, too. Forty days after the cat disappeared, she was found by one of the residents hiking nearby. Shadow had a leg amputated, but lived happily with Maurer afterwards, spending lots of time in the Jamestown Mercantile Cafe.

“She'd be sitting on the table down here watching the band. And then I'd take her dancing," Maurer said with a smile. “She was just one super cat.”

“She, I think, sometimes took on the spirit of Joey walking through the restaurant, like she owned the place. We gave her respect," Schultz recalled.

Shadow the cat was proof to many that miracles can happen following the 2013 floods in Colorado
This newspaper clipping hangs near the front door of the Jamestown Mercantile Cafe.

Shadow passed away around four years after the flood. When she died, the town held a parade, escorting her to the cemetery.

“I took her ashes and I put them in with Joey's ashes," said Maurer. “Joey was one of the biggest, biggest losses to this town.”

Ten years after the flood, that loss is still there. The Jamestown community remains in awe of the support they received.

“It was just astonishing to see the kindness that strangers showed to us," Schultz said, before heading home from the cafe. “I think he [Howlett] was happy with how we've all managed to go on."

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