Durango: A look back at the area’s worst flood in history, October 5, 1911, virtually all crops in the Animas Valley were destroyed

Here’s a look back at the October 5, 1911 flood, Durango’s worst flood in history, from Ann Butler writing for The Durango Herald. Click through to read the whole article and take in the cool photo slideshow. Here’s an excerpt:

Rainfall in semi-arid Southwest Colorado is usually a blessing, but in 1911, it was another story after 36 hours of rain dropped 3.42 inches of rain in Durango and 4 inches in Silverton. The storm centered on Gladstone, north of Silverton, which received a Western Slope record, a jaw-dropping 8 inches, a record that still stands today. The deluge that resulted on Oct. 5 that year was described as the “worst flooding in history of southwestern Colorado,” in the Silverton Standard & Caboose of Oct. 13, 1911. That’s still true today, 100 years later. The Animas River was running at 25,000 cubic feet per second in Durango. The average for that gauge on Oct. 5 is 441 cfs. The “remnant of a tropical storm in the Pacific,” as the state climate office described it, the precipitation was heavy throughout the region, resulting in flooding in every drainage system…

If there was a hero after the flood, it was Otto Mears, nicknamed “The Pathfinder” because he built several toll roads and railroads in some of the most difficult terrain in the San Juan Mountains. The estimated damage to his infrastructure alone was $25,000, about $568,000 in 2011 dollars. “Mr. Otto Mears is entitled to the thanks of the community for his promptness in repairing the damage to his lines,” the Standard said. “It is characteristic of the man, and these lines will add much to the convenience of Silverton and the entire San Juan for a long time before we have any other transportation.”[…]

In 1911, after all the damage reports were in, a writer for the Mancos Times-Tribune took a philosophical approach to the devastating event. “Taken all in all,” he wrote, “the rains this season have inflicted great damage to the farmers and done a great deal of good. We still have enough for all of us to live on, so what’s the use to complain. Most of us can’t stand prosperity, and we will be better people by reason of our having less to squander and spend foolishly. Adversity makes men, but prosperity makes monsters.”

More Animas River coverage here.

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