Spring Creek Flood retrospective

Fort Collins flood July 28, 1997

Here’s a retrospective about the July 28, 1997 flood from Erin Udall running in the The Fort Collins Coloradoan. Click through to read the whole article. Here’s an excerpt:

The water reached over heads, its strong current carried cars from roads and pulled people from their doorsteps or out of the grasp of loved ones.

Witnesses could hear yells for help, see trailers wash off their foundations and smell the propane that streaked the debris-filled floodwaters.

“It was emergency sensory overload,” retired Poudre Fire Authority Captain Steve Fleming said, as he recalled the night Fort Collins’ ankle-deep Spring Creek turned the small city into a scene of tragic flooding, fires and fatalities.

As July 28, 1997 ended and a new day began, Fort Collins was faced with a new city — one full of twisted debris, totaled cars and forever-changed families.

Twenty years later, walk through the events of that night with this timeline of the Spring Creek Flood. See how heavy rain turned a creek into a deadly river. Watch as a festival-like atmosphere — with people kayaking in the streets — gave way to a somber city the next morning. And revisit the places that were washed away and rebuilt.

How it started — Heavy rainfall pounded parts of Fort Collins, with isolated storms wetting the city on July 27, 1997. The following day, it was about to get worse.

Nolan Doesken — Colorado Water Foundation for Water Education President’s Award Presentation 2011

The flood moved Nolan Doesken to create CoCoRaHS. Here’s a report from Kevin Duggan from The Fort Collins Coloradoan. Here’s an excerpt:

In the wake of the flash flood, which killed five women, injured 54 people and caused $200 million in damage, Doesken wanted to understand the storm and how events played out as they did.

Through the Coloradoan and other media outlets, he asked community members to report as accurately as possible rainfall amounts at their homes and businesses. High school students went door to door looking for reliable measurements.

About 300 reports were collected.

While the official weather station at Colorado State University measured about 6 inches of rainfall, data collected from the community revealed that 10 to 14.5 inches of rain fell on the west side of the city during a 30-hour period.

During the same period, the city’s east side received about 2 inches.

The heaviest rainfall centered on the area near Drake Road and Overland Trail and the foothills. The deluge set a record for rainfall over an urban area in Colorado that still stands.

The variance in rainfall totals across the city inspired Doesken to find ways to correlate weather radar estimates of rainfall amounts with what happens on the ground. And the Community Collaborative Rain, Hail and Snow, or CoCoRaHS, network, began.

Volunteers use rain gauges, aluminum-wrapped hail pads and rulers to measure precipitation. Daily results are reported through the program’s website, maintained by the Colorado Climate Center at CSU.

Since its start in Larimer County in 1998, CoCoRaHS has spread across the country to all 50 states and the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, Canada and the Bahamas.

Data from reports are used in a variety of areas, including weather forecasting, water management, transportation planning and mosquito control.

CoCoRaHS and other observation networks provide important information for weather forecasters, said Thomas Trunk, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service’s Office of Observations in Silver Springs, Maryland.

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