‘Biblical’ Amounts of Rainfall Slam Colorado

Posted on 09/12/13
By Ryan Koronowski | Via Climate Progress
Flood water gushing through a street in Estes Park, Colorado, on September 12. (Photo by Kevin Beaty, Creative Commons License)
Flood water gushing through a street in Estes Park, Colorado, on September 12. (Photo by Kevin Beaty, Creative Commons License)

Massive, historic, “biblical” rainfall cascaded through much of Colorado Thursday (September 12), leaving three people dead and one missing as of Thursday night as a result of the flooding.

Up to 8 inches of rain fell across a hundred-mile expanse of Colorado’s Front Range, causing thousands to be evacuated as local streams turned into rampaging torrents. The heavy rains returned to the foothills region Thursday night, with more precipitation forecast for Friday.
The National Weather Service issued constantly-updated versions of a local area forecast, and one at 9:41 a.m. MDT (Mountain Daylight Time) reported a dire warning:

 

MAJOR FLOODING/FLASH FLOODING EVENT UNDERWAY AT THIS TIME WITH BIBLICAL RAINFALL AMOUNTS REPORTED IN MANY AREAS IN/NEAR THE FOOTHILLS

There’s no scientific definition of “biblical” but the flooding has been unlike anything local residents have ever seen before.

Boulder County Sheriff Joe Pelle, after facing 20-foot walls of water racing down canyons already stripped bare by wildfires and drought, said, “This is not an ordinary day. It is not an ordinary disaster.”

A dozen dams overflowed and six actually blew out, while officials were keeping their eyes on several high-hazard dams whose failure would seriously endanger lives

This week started rainy for Boulder, which has seen 14 inches of rain fall since Monday. Boulder Creek’s flow rate usually measures at 100-300 cubic feet per second. On Thursday, it hit 4,500, more than double the previous record. NWS issued a flash flood warning “until further notice.”

Boulder’s Office of Emergency Management evacuated the area around the creek, issuing a statement saying, “All residents are warned to go to higher ground immediately due to the potential for flash flooding along the creek.”

Three towns, Lyons, Estes Park and Jamestown, were totally isolated by water and cascading rivers. Lyons lost power and Estes Park lost telephone lines and cell tower service. The only way residents could speak with the outside world was through ham radio.

“There’s no way out of town. There’s no way into town. So, basically, now we’re just on an island,” Lyons resident Jason Stillman told the Weather Channel after he had to evacuate his home at 3 a.m. due to a river flooding into the street. On Thursday night, the National Guard began trucking people out of the trapped town.

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