Sterling Ranch update: The Chatfield Community Association has filed an appeal of the project approval

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From the Denver Business Journal (Dennis Huspeni):

The Chatfield Community Association last month filed an appeal under Rule 106 of the Colorado Rules of Civil Procedures, asking a district judge to review the commissioners’ July decision to approve the development plan…

The new challenge, filed by Denver attorney James Kreutz, alleges that Sterling Ranch application couldn’t be changed to the “pending status” after 18th Judicial District Judge Paul King ruled in the first case that Douglas County commissioners erred when they agreed to rezone the 3,400-acre site in 2011. Chatfield’s new challenge echoes King’s language in his order, stating the commissioners acted “arbitrarily, capriciously and with an abuse of discretion” when approving the application in July…

The 106 challenge also alleges commissioners “failed to act in an unbiased manner” by “engaging paid lobbyist to enact legislative changes intended to aid the Applicant.”

Commissioners, through County Attorney Lance Ingalls, denied they acted improperly and asked the court to dismiss the complaint “for lack of subject matter jurisdiction.” They asked the judge to not only rule in favor of Douglas County, but also order the association to pay the county’s attorneys fees and costs.

District Judge Richard Brewster Caschette has allowed Sterling Ranch to intervene in the case, according to a Sept. 11 order.

Harold Smethills, president and CEO of Sterling Ranch, said the appeal won’t stop the development. “They want a do-over,” Smethills said. “They’re hopeful that by suing the county, they might get lucky and get a do-over. … We’re just going ahead.”

More Sterling Ranch coverage here.

Colorado Climate Center compiling final data on the Great September Storm of 2013 #COflood

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From Colorado State University (Kate Hawthorne Jeracki):

How much rain fell on Colorado this week? And where? Colorado residents can help the weather experts at Colorado State University answer these questions.

In response to the incredible recent rains and flooding in parts of the state, the Colorado Climate Center will be mapping rainfall totals and graphing hourly intensities for the entire state for the period beginning Sunday, Sept. 8 (as storms first developed over southern Colorado) through the end of the storm later this weekend

“As is typical of Colorado storms, some parts of the state were hard hit and others were untouched. Still, this storm is ranking in the top ten extreme flooding events since Colorado statehood,” said Nolan Doesken, State Climatologist at CSU. “It isn’t yet as extreme or widespread as the June 1965 floods or as dramatic as the 1935 floods but it ranks right up there among some of the worst.”

Among the worst, according to Climate Center data, occurred in May 1904, October 1911, June 1921, May 1935, September 1938, May 1955, June 1965, May 1969, October 1970, July 1976, July 1981, and, of course, the Spring Creek Flood of July 1997 that ravaged Fort Collins and the CSU campus. “Every flood event in Colorado has its own unique characteristics,” said Doesken. “But the topography of the Colorado Front Range makes this area particularly vulnerable when the necessary meteorological conditions come together as they did this week.”

Data from automated rain gauges maintained by several federal and local agencies will be combined with data from the National Weather Service’s weather radar system and their volunteer Cooperative Observer and storm spotter networks. This will be compiled with rain gauge reports from over 1,000 volunteers who are active participants in the Community Collaborative Rain Hail and Snow Network (CoCoRaHS), which was formed in response to the Spring Creek Flood.

“While this may be the most thoroughly documented storm in our history with so much technology and observational data available, we still have many parts of our state where we don’t know how much rain has fallen,” Doesken said. “We realize that many people have weather stations and cameras, and sharing that data could help fill in the gaps to better document the timing of rainfall and its intensity and the patterns of subsequent flooding. Even just a measurement from a bucket that was left outdoors could be helpful — provided you tell us the dimensions of the bucket.”

Rain gauge measurements, personal anecdotes about this storm and unique photos that will help to document this storm should be sent to coflood2013@gmail.com. “This type of information is incredibly important for future construction, engineering, transportation, communication as well as energy and water infrastructure for Colorado,” Doesken added. Floods have happened before and they will happen again, but the more we know about them the better we can prepare for the next one.”

Daily and storm total rainfall patterns will be available on the Colorado Climate Center website http://ccc.atmos.colostate.edu. Rainfall maps for the entire U.S. and parts of Canada are updated daily at http://www.cocorahs.org.

From The Denver Post (William Porter):

The torrential rain and floods swamping vast swaths of Colorado have been described as “biblical” and bona fide a 100-year storms. The numbers are staggering. Consider:

• Boulder’s 25 square miles were awash in an estimated 4.5 billion gallons of water as of Friday morning, according to reports in The Denver Post.

• An acre-foot of water — the amount of water covering 1 acre with a foot of water — equals 326,000 gallons. The equivalent of 13,803 acre-feet of water fell in the Boulder area.

A football field is roughly 1 acre.

• Boulder Creek hit a flow rate of 4,500 cubic feet per second, more than doubling the previous high flow recorded during the last quarter century, according to the U.S. Geological Survey gauging station. The river usually runs at 100 to 300 cfs.
A cubic foot of water weighs 62.4 pounds. That means that at one point Boulder Creek was roaring with 280,800 pounds of water a second, or just over 140 tons. The standard railroad locomotive weighs 120 to 240 tons, depending on the model.

• The velocity and churn of the water in Boulder Creek was the equivalent of a Class IV rapid, an “expert” level typically encountered on the Arkansas and Colorado rivers during runoff season.

• During flash floods, 2 feet of water can move with enough force to wash away a car. Just 6 inches of water can knock a Denver Bronco-sized adult off his or her feet.

• Converting an inch of rainwater into the equivalent amount of snow is a bit tricky, given the variables. One inch of rain will produce 3½ to 4 inches of wet snow, but potentially 10 to 12 inches of light powder. With the amount of rain in Boulder, a powdery snow could have been up to the eaves of single-story homes.

• Car engines will generally flood if water reaches halfway up the wheels — less than that if the vehicle is in motion, because of surging water.

• Flood stage in the Big Thompson River is 6 feet. Water in the Big Thompson crested at 10.55 feet at 6:30 a.m. Friday. That’s more than the 9.31-foot peak in the 1976 flood that killed 144 people.

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Here’s the latest Denver Post map of rainfall totals.

#COflood: Some drying out forecast for today as is more rain, 6 dead and 1,253 unaccounted for

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

Colorado towns already crumbling under the weight of historic flooding got pounded again Sunday with sometimes torrential downpours as the flood death toll and the number of people still unaccounted for continued to rise. Up to 4 inches of rain fell in parts of Larimer County, where authorities said an 80-year-old woman went missing and is presumed dead, bringing the total of people killed to six since flooding began Wednesday evening. The forecast called for more rain Monday.

As flooding along the South Platte River moved downstream into northeast Colorado, communities braced for unprecedented rising water levels.

Emergency management officials said 17,494 homes were damaged, 1,502 homes were destroyed and 11,700 people were ordered evacuated.

As of Sunday, rescuers had evacuated more than 2,100 people and more than 500 pets, most by helicopter. “The situation has deteriorated,” Boulder County Emergency Management spokesman Andrew Barth said Sunday. “There’s a heavy, heavy fog, and rain is coming down hard.”

The flooding has been catastrophic for dozens of Front Range and Eastern Plains towns and cities.

Hundreds of local and federal rescuers crisscrossed remote slopes on foot and in ATVs trying to find people who have not been heard from in days. Even as rescuers found stranded people and crossed them off the list of “the unaccounted for,” that list continued to grow as more people called police asking for welfare checks on friends and relatives they couldn’t reach. The list across the state now tallies 1,253 people unaccounted for. The fear is that some of them are dead, Barth said.

On Sunday, federal aid continued flowing into the state. The Federal Emergency Management Agency deployed two Incident Management Assistance Teams and staff for Colorado emergency operations centers.

Three federal urban search-and-rescue teams — Colorado Task Force 1, Utah Task Force 1 and Nebraska Task Force 1 — also were rescuing people in storm-damaged areas. Two more teams are expected Monday.

FEMA is providing more than 65,000 liters of water and 22,000 meals. A FEMA communications vehicle is assisting in operations in Lyons.

President Barack Obama called Gov. John Hickenlooper on Sunday to reiterate his commitment to providing federal support, according to a White House news release. Obama declared a major disaster in Colorado on Saturday, authorizing federal funds for flood victims. FEMA Administrator Craig Fugate will travel to Colorado on Monday to help coordinate the federal response.

Nevertheless, Sunday saw another day of drenching rain and heart-wrenching stories. In the Cedar Cove area of Big Thompson Canyon, an injured 80-year-old woman could not leave her house, said Larimer County sheriff’s spokesman John Schulz. “When people came back to help her, the house was gone,” he said. It was the second day in a row that a woman was reported missing and presumed dead in the Cedar Cove area. A 60-year-old woman was reported missing Saturday.

Overflowing streams and rivers forced the state Department of Transportation to shut down Interstate 25 from Colorado 7 to Colorado 52 in both directions.

Municipal officials issued new evacuation orders to residents in Longmont, Greeley, Weld County and Estes Park. Pouring rain west of Longmont triggered re-evacuations of the Greens, Champion Greens and the Valley neighborhoods. Neighborhoods south of Colorado 119 near I-25 also were ordered to leave as Mountain View Fire and Rescue reported the St. Vrain River was rising 7 inches every 15 minutes Sunday morning.

Flooding has wiped away large sections of roads, making it risky or impossible 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, Barth said. Sixteen helicopters in Larimer County were grounded Sunday.

Authorities across the flooded areas warned that it could take many months before infrastructure, including new roads, will be completed. Xcel Energy officials said Sunday they will have to replace thousands of natural-gas meters and up to 20 miles of natural-gas pipeline. More than 4,000 customers are without gas in Boulder County, according to the utility.

National Guard and Boulder County heavy-equipment operators began to rebuild creek and river banks after floodwaters created new waterways that have swamped several communities. “We’re going to try to divert the St. Vrain River back into its original channel,” Barth said. It could take several months to rebuild the banks so that the river flows down its original channel, Barth said.

Crews also have been repairing and rebuilding roads to reach isolated mountain communities, including Lyons and James-town. “We did punch a hole getting to Jamestown, but its still pretty slippery,” Barth said.

Near Hillrose in northeast Colorado, BNSF Railway workers were dumping loads of gravel in an attempt to reinforce the railroad bed as the South Platte River widened to within 6 feet of the track. The line is used to move coal from Wyoming to a power plant near Brush. Some residents in the area said the river’s surge is bigger than what they saw in 1965, when flooding along the Front Range and Eastern Plains left 21 dead and 250,000 acres inundated. Flooding in the Denver metro area was severe in 1965. A storm surge destroyed 120 houses and damaged 935 in Littleton, Englewood and Denver. Also, 280 mobile homes were lost, and 16 bridges in Denver were demolished. After the flood, Chatfield and Bear Creek reservoirs were built to control storm waters.