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The Floods Leave A Legacy In Colorado

Good Question: What Are We Learning About Colorado’s Floods?
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The National Weather Service’s Bob Glancy talks with CBS4's Alan Gionet (credit: CBS)

The National Weather Service’s Bob Glancy talks with CBS4’s Alan Gionet (credit: CBS)

Alan Gionet Good Question
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Written by Alan Gionet

LOVELAND, Colo. (CBS4) – In Larimer County the water had a roar.

“Ground thunder,” many describe.

“It’s deafening because the ground was shaking and the rocks were grinding in the river bottom,” said resident Mark Mazza.

Rocks the size of cars pushed downstream. If you’ve ever hiked or driven along a canyon in the mountains, you wonder how many eons it took to create so much erosion. The answer may not be eons at all.

“The evidence that is left for us we’re going to try to make the best sense out of it and try to come up with some answers,” said Russell Stroud, lead hydrographer in the area for the Colorado Division of Water Resources.

Stroud was joined by U.S. Geological Survey workers as they tried to compute the amount of water that poured down the Big Thompson Canyon. Those workers are now furloughed and the numbers have been delayed. But people in the area have guessed the water’s flow at 15,000 cubic feet per second.

They will compute the maximum flow — how high the water got.

“Agencies like (the Federal Emergency Management Agency) will use that to delineate their flood maps and insurance will use FEMA’s flood maps to determine insurance rates and zoning and so forth,” said Jeff Kitchen, a USGS hydrologist.

The maps and figures will be used to determine where people can and cannot rebuild. The flood zones are now likely to change, but another flood like the one in September may not occur for 100 or even 1,000 years.

The heaviest rains were in Larimer County, Boulder County and Aurora. In some areas of the Eastern Plains there was little rain, just downstream flooding. Boulder County had the most.

“If you just simply average those numbers, we came up with 8.9 inches in seven days across the county,” said the National Weather Service’s Bob Glancy. “Boulder County alone, that would give you 11 billion, 707 million, gallons of water.”

That means enough water to fill 140 oil super tankers.

“You could look at an even one in 100 years, one in 1,000 years, one in 10,000 years, this was that event,” said Glancy.

Will we see such a thing again? It’s doubtful.

“I think the thing is people will remember this event, but it might be their children or their grandchildren that experience the next event.”

Colorado Floods: How To Help

The recent floods are impacting families and communities throughout Colorado, so CBS4 has compiled a list of ways you can support the local communities impacted by the floods.

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