Connecting the Drops: The Mighty Colorado Statewide Call-In Radio Show today, 5 to 6 PM #ColoradoRiver

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Click here for the pitch. Good luck if the Broncos game runs long.

Take a helicopter tour of the Cache la Poudre River #COflood

Very cool video from the City of Fort Collins. You get a view of Milton Seaman Reservoir spilling.

‘Forecast is not in our favor today. Be prepared, informed & SAFE!’ — Denver Police #COflood

From the Associated Press (Hannah Drier/Ben Neary) via The Pueblo Chieftain:

Special education teacher Brian Shultz, 38, was torn about leaving his Jamestown home. “I was thinking about staying. I could have lasted at least a year. I have a lot of training in wilderness survival,” he said, adding that he probably had enough beer to last the whole time.

As he sat outside a makeshift shelter at a high school, Shultz floated the idea of walking back into the funky mountain town. “If we hike back, I would stay there and just live. I’d rather be at our own house than staying at some other people’s houses,” he said.

His wife, Meagan Harrington, gave him a wry smile. About 10 of their neighbors declined to evacuate, she said. “They said they wouldn’t force you, but it was strongly encouraged,” she said.

Shultz teared up behind his sunglasses as he compared his situation to that of his neighbors. “At least all of our stuff’s there and will be there when we get back. The people right by the river, their houses were washed away. Other people thought their houses were going to be OK, and then they started to go. It’s just really devastating.”

From The Denver Post (Kirk Mitchell/Tom McGhee):

As the number of presumed dead from the Colorado floods rose to six on Sunday, the monumental task of rechanneling swollen creeks and rivers and rebuilding roads swept away by flash flooding was well underway.

An 80-year-old woman’s home in the Cedar Cove area was almost completely obliterated and she is missing, according to John Schulz, spokesman for the Larimer County Sheriff’ Office.

A 60-year-old woman disappeared Saturday in the Cedar Cove area.

The 80-year-old woman “was injured and couldn’t get out of her home. When people came back to help her, the house was gone,” Schulz said.

Hundreds of National Guard, sheriff’s deputies and firefighters from across the west are searching for more than 700 people still for in Boulder and Larimer counties.
“We have no idea if there are more victims,” said Andrew Barth, spokesman for Boulder County Emergency Management.

Flooding has wiped away large sections of roads, making it risky to reach people in dangerous areas and slowing rescue efforts, Barth said.

Fifteen helicopters in Boulder County that evacuated 1,200 people from Lyons and 295 people from Jamestown were grounded Sunday because of low visibility because of clouds, Barth said.

It is also unclear whether seven helicopters in Larimer County will get off the ground Sunday morning.

Meantime, National Guard heavy equipment operators have begun to rebuild creek and river banks after floodwaters created new waterways that have swamped several Boulder and Larimer county communities.

“We’re going to try to divert the St. Vrain River back into its original channel,” Barth said. “It actually took a large turn to the north. It inundated areas where we never expected water to go. It’s crazy.”

It could take several months to rebuild the banks so that the river flows down its original channel, he said.

Still, even as the work crews rebuild waterways, forecasters predict another 1 to 2 inches of rain Sunday. Rain was falling again Sunday morning.

Crews have also been repairing and rebuilding roads to reach isolated mountain communities including Lyons and Jamestown.

“We did punch a hole getting to Jamestown but its still pretty slippery,” Barth said.

Jefferson County Sheriff’s deputies have been trying to coax 50 residents staying in their homes in Jamestown to evacuate because the slopes are unstable and new mud slides put them at risk, Barth said.

In Fort Morgan, where the South Platte River divides the city, every road crossing the river is closed due to flooding. “There is no access between the north and south sides of the river,” said City Clerk John Brennan.

A 300 acre park that straddles Interstate 76 is under water, and a number of hotels and a Walmart were evacuated and closed due to flooding, but the high waters have so far not inundated the city, Brennan said.

The river could, however, still spill into the town when it crests this evening, he added.

Estes Park residents were warned Sunday that they could be evacuated from their homes for months.

“Residents should prepare to evacuate for what may be an extended period of time, as road and infrastructure repairs could take several months,” according to a city news release. “Residents must understand that with winter weather impending, staying at home in this area is an extremely dangerous decision and emergency services will not be available to them after evacuation.

Low-lying Estes Park properties along Fish Creek Road were evacuated late Saturday. City officials are checking other neighborhoods for possible evacuations on Sunday.

Storm pattern over Colorado September 2013: Graphic/NWS via USA Today
Storm pattern over Colorado September 2013 — Graphic/NWS via USA Today

From USA Today (Doyle Rice):

This week’s rains and floods in Colorado were the result of a strong, slow-moving storm at upper levels of the atmosphere located to the west of the state, according to meteorologist Jeff Masters with the Weather Underground. The storm got trapped to the south of an unusually strong ridge of high pressure parked over Western Canada, he says.

The circulation around the storm tapped a plume of extremely moist, monsoonal air from Mexico that pushed up against the mountains and fell as rain on the already saturated ground, soaked from rain earlier in the week, Masters adds.

How much rain? From the afternoon of Sept. 9 through midday on Sept. 13, 14.62 inches of rain fell in Boulder. Average September rainfall in Boulder is only 1.63 inches, according to Weather Channel meteorologist Jon Erdman, adding that Boulder picked up almost nine times its average September monthly rainfall in almost four days.

Finally, winds 15,000 feet above the ground were generally blowing from southeast to northwest and were light, Erdman says. This allowed the rain and thunderstorms to linger over the foothills and Front Range urban corridor.

“This is a classic scenario for major flooding in northern Colorado,” he says.

Click here to read The Greeley Tribune’s coverage. They’re updating the article every few minutes.

From The Fort Collins Coloradoan (Ryan Maye Handy):

…on Sept. 9, a Monday, it was hard to believe the big storm would bring anything but cool drizzle to Colorado. By Wednesday, the air mass was rapidly becoming a statewide deluge that within hours would sweep away roads, people and homes along the Front Range. What had started as a meteorological oddity had become something deadly, something historic.

Fort Collins, a city accustomed to flash floods, went about its normal business in a Wednesday morning drizzle. Residents might have been blissfully unaware, but local forecasters had already flagged the storm sitting over Larimer County as something unusual, containing almost unbelievable amounts of water. If the storm hit the Front Range, it would be bigger than the worst Colorado floods, covering more ground than the Big Thompson Flood of 1976 and the floods of 1965.

On Wednesday morning, a storm that big was just hard to believe.

Twelve hours later, the unbelievable happened: Walls of water washed through Colorado’s foothills, disintegrating bridges and roads, marooning mountain residents and killing at least four people.

“This is worse than Big Thompson, and I never thought I’d say that,” said Erick Nielsson, the emergency manager for Larimer County. Nielsson was an EMT in 1976 when the Big Thompson River flood killed 143 people in Larimer County.

Last weekend, the wet air mass soon to hit Colorado was swirling over Arizona and New Mexico. It looked like an average summer monsoon, a rapidly moving system of wet air that triggers well-known short downpours in Colorado.

“But this was better than average,” said Nolan Doesken, a state climatologist, of the epic storm. “This was a particularly concentrated moist air mass, and the kind you associate with the remnants of a tropical storm. (But), I don’t recall this being the remnants of a tropical storm.”

Once the storm reached Colorado, light winds and the mountains pushed it up high — and there it stuck, dumping for hours over Colorado Springs, Boulder and throughout Larimer County. In a matter of days, it dumped a year’s worth of rain in parts of Colorado. The rain fell onto burn scars, into dams and rivers; unlike a wildfire, it could not be mitigated or stopped, only endured. Days later, the damage it wrought is still being tallied, and if history is any precedent, it could take Colorado months to rebuild the roads and communities that were washed away…

Big wet air masses such as these don’t just hit, they need to be set up by wind, heat and geography. On Monday, Doesken and his colleagues wondered if all the right ingredients would come into play to make this storm as big — and possibly as dangerous — as it seemed.

Everything, it turns out, fell into place. Although temperatures in Fort Collins, and around the state, dropped rapidly Monday, a cold front with easterly winds had pushed the storm against the Front Range. Once there, the steep hillsides lifted the storm in what’s called an upslope flow.

“It wasn’t really a strong wind but enough to keep putting moist air against the foothills,” Doesken said. “There was obviously a regional updraft that really accentuated the precipitation.”[…]

That Wednesday morning Doesken read the detailed weather reports put out by NWS — stuff “only us nerds read,” he said — and saw that computer models were pointing to much more moisture than was predicted.

Weather models were “going nuts with precipitation for Wednesday,” but the Boulder National Weather Service forecaster essentially said, “ ‘I’m not sure I can buy that,’ ” Doesken recalled.

Weather service forecasters weren’t the only ones who doubted the measurements. Russ Schumacher, an assistant professor of atmospheric science at Colorado State University, couldn’t believe the weather models either.

“It’s one of those things where, when the models are telling you that there’s the chance that something might happen that has never happened before, you tend not to believe that it is going to happen,” he said.

Click here go to Brendan’s Weather Blog for the cool graphics and photos of the storm.