DENVER — Antique guns, Native American artifacts and pioneer-era tools are among the treasures being moved to higher ground as Coloradoans on the eastern plains prepare for possible flooding.
With over a week's worth of snow and rain making its way downstream, the National Weather Service said the high water Tuesday is between Greeley and the Logan County seat of Sterling. The bulge of water is expected to spread down the river through the week.
In Sterling, curator Kay Brigham Rich has since the weekend been overseeing the relocation of thousands of items from low-lying structures to other buildings that make up the Overland Trail Museum. The city-owned museum was closed for seven months after a 2013 flood caused extensive damage.
"Before that flood, we'd done a lot to protect the museum. But the water was a lot higher than we'd expected," Brigham Rich said Tuesday. "This time, we're taking a lot of extra precautions."
Warm weather and scattered afternoon showers and thunderstorms are forecast for northeastern Colorado through Friday. Logan County emergency officials were warning of a strong possibility the South Platte River, expected to crest in the region Thursday or Friday, could reach the levels seen during the 2013 flooding that swept across large parts of the Front Range and the eastern plains. Evacuations plans were in place, though none have been implemented; sand bags are being distributed; and the fairgrounds are ready to accommodate displaced cattle.
At the museum, forklifts were brought in to move antique equipment from a print shop exhibit. Other items moved included antique housewares, handicrafts, weapons and even dinosaur bones, Brigham Rich said. It was hard to say exactly how many pieces were moved by museum staff and crews from the city parks department, she said.
"It's thousands of thousands," Brigham Rich said.
The Overland Trail Museum started in 1936 with a main stone building erected to resemble one of the early trading forts 19th century settlers would have encountered on their way west. Later, period buildings such as a one-room schoolhouse, a church, a general store and a barn were added, creating a full-scale village diorama. The original building, which sits on the lowest ground and houses the items there's no room to display elsewhere, was emptied in the flood-preparation work, Brigham Rich said.
Insurance covered most of the cost, which Brigham Rich estimated at between $1 million and $2 million, of restoring what was damaged in 2013. After identification tags floated away in 2013, restoration included insuring catalog information was written on individual items, she said.