Much of Colorado has been positively inundated with rains over the past few days. The downpour has been described as “biblical,” “epic,” “torrential” and much more. We’re sad to say that this language is far from hyperbolic: the destruction wrought upon much of the state infrastructure will cost untold amounts of money to repair, the human suffering is inestimable and it will take years for nature to recover in some areas inundated by floodwaters. We’re looking at a few specifics of the flooding to give you perspective on just how serious—and thankfully rare—is this scale of ecological disaster.
5 Multiple Structures Have Been Damaged or Destroyed
Residents from multiple regions of the inundated state have described veritable rivers flowing around and over their homes as flashfloods have breached levees, filled canyons and rushed through residential and commercial areas. Trailer homes have floated out of parks; whole roadways and bridges have been washed away; and more than a quarter of the buildings and facilities at UC Boulder, the state’s largest school, have suffered flood-related damage.
4 Whole Towns Have Been Cut Off
With roads and bridges washed away and the rains falling so heavily at times that rescue crews can’t fly helicopters, entire towns are cut off in parts of Colorado, left to fend for themselves as the rains and flooding continue. Coloradoans describe sheltering together in schools and in neighbors’ homes, turned out of their own residences by the flooding. The Red Cross sends in vehicles with high-clearance undercarriages when possible during lulls in the downpour, but if rains pick up again, towns may once again be isolated.
3 This May Be the Region’s Worst Flooding in a Century
To quote Colorado governor John Hickenlooper: “We’ll see what the data tells us but this could easily be a 50 or 100-year flood.” Rainfall has been reported falling as heavily as two inches in a single hour, and in Boulder, CO, a 95-year-old record was broken when more than seven inches of rain fell in less than 24 hours.
2 At Least Three People Have Died
The flooding in Colorado has resulted in at least three confirmed deaths thus far, and may well be responsible for more fatalities that are as yet unreported. At least one Colorado resident is currently listed as missing. At particular risk are motorists stuck on roadways subject to crumbling or even completely washing away down hillsides and into rivers. “Move to higher ground now,” the National Weather Service advised, adding the chilling admonition: “Act quickly to protect your life.”
1 The Flooding is Both a State and Federal Emergency
Even as long as a month ago, in mid-August, Governor Hickenlooper declared a state of emergency in several Colorado counties related to flooding caused by excessive rainfall. The flooding has only gotten worse in the ensuing weeks and now Hickenlooper has turned to the national government, asking the White House to declare a disaster on the Federal level and send in FEMA and other support. The Obama Administration has approved the disaster relief aid request.