Skip to: Content
Skip to: Site Navigation
Skip to: Search

Colorado floods predicted by scientists

Colorado, and especially Boulder, Colo., has a history of flash floods. In 2004, the University of Colorado's Natural Hazards Center listed a flash flood in Boulder as one of six "disasters waiting to happen" in the United States.

(Page 2 of 2)

The last 100-year flood in Boulder was in 1894, so the city was statistically overdue for another disaster. (Note that even though a 100-year flood appears on average once a century, it's possible for two 100-year events to hit in back-to-back years; the term actually refers to the 1 percent chance of the event happening in any given year.)

Skip to next paragraph

But the flood that Coloradoans remember struck on July 31, 1976. A storm dumped more than 8 inches (20 cm) of rain in one hour, laying waste to Big Thompson Canyon and trapping hundreds of residents and campers in the steep, narrow gorge.

Responding to disaster

This week, officials closed Highway 34 in Big Thompson Canyon before the worst flooding hit. The road was soon washed out. Sirens and text alerts warned Boulder residents of the coming flood. At the University of Colorado, police evacuated students from married-family housing, one of the most vulnerable buildings on campus. People living in remote areas received personal warnings by phone from their local emergency officials, according to news reports.

But despite all the advance planning, at least four people have died, two of them as they were leaving a car stopped in floodwaters, the Denver Post reported. But emergency rescuers also saved a man whose car fell into raging Boulder Creek when a road collapsed.

For the past two decades, Boulder County fire crews have trained to save residents trapped in floodwaters. They bumped up the crews' biennial practice schedule in 2011 after a massive forest fire that raised fears of increased runoff.

"We were pretty well prepared for it, but it doesn't mean all the residents were well prepared for it," Klesch said. "Part of emergency management preparations is knowing a certain percentage of people are going to make bad decisions," he said.

Email Becky Oskin or follow her @beckyoskin. Follow us @livescience, Facebook & Google+. Original article on LiveScience.

Copyright 2013 LiveScience, a TechMediaNetwork company. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

  • Weekly review of global news and ideas
  • Balanced, insightful and trustworthy
  • Subscribe in print or digital

Special Offer


Doing Good


What happens when ordinary people decide to pay it forward? Extraordinary change...

Danny Bent poses at the starting line of the Boston Marathon in Hopkinton, Mass.

After the Boston Marathon bombings, Danny Bent took on a cross-country challenge

The athlete-adventurer co-founded a relay run called One Run for Boston that started in Los Angeles and ended at the marathon finish line to raise funds for victims.

Become a fan! Follow us! Google+ YouTube See our feeds!