Friday, September 20, 2013

My Perfect Timing: Boulder Floods

Boulder Creek Flood. The 500-year mark is mid-way up.

***Note*** Flood relief effort information listed below!

  I recently ventured out to Colorado for my annual visit to friends, former college teammates and coaches, and one of my favorite cities, Boulder.

  And as luck would have it, my visit perfectly coincided with the One Hundred Year Flood (or 500 Year Flood, or 1000 Year Event, depending on who you talk to).

  Needless to say, plans were changed. Everything that had been penciled in for my four-day visit was quickly thrown out the window.

The view from Folsom Field on Saturday afternoon.
A Fall Visit
  In previous years, I usually visit Colorado mid-summer. But since I wouldn't be headed overseas this fall, I delayed my visit to the Rockies so I could see the Buffs (and Ralphie) in person on the gridiron. So I had yet to see my 'Colorado people', nor get my thin air fix this year.

  College football has always been my favorite sporting event to watch in person, and nothing beats a fall afternoon at Folsom Field watching the Buffs play. Game day Saturdays in Boulder were always a favorite of mine when I was a student at CU, and hopefully will become a more common occurrence for me as an alum.

Weather was clearer south of Denver.
  I was slated to touchdown in Denver Thursday night, the 12th.

And Then Came The Rain
  The rain started early in the week, and by Wednesday, it had become a continuous downpour. Thursday I awoke to news of flooding hitting the Boulder area.

  I spent the morning and afternoon trying to decide if I still was going to make the trip. Rains had hit Boulder hard, and flooding was already widespread, with a lot more rain on the way. The University of Colorado campus was already to be closed on Thursday and Friday.
Saturday afternoon at Folsom.

  I doubted that people dealing with flooding would be up for visitors, nor was I too confident there would be a football game to go to on Saturday. Not to mention heading into an already-declared disaster area was a major cause for concern.

  I weighed the pros and cons, and decided to make the trip anyways. It would be worth it to see some friends I hadn't seen in a while, disaster area or not.

Boulder Creek Path.
One Extreme to Another
  So I spent more time in Denver than I typically do. Boulder and Denver are only a mere 30 miles apart from each other. But in this case, those 30 miles represented a vast discrepancy in rain totals (19-20 inches for Boulder, versus 4-6 inches in Denver over a three day span).

  Those not familiar with Colorado, 20 inches of rain is the equivalent of two years worth of rain for the Boulder area. All coming in three days. And it has seemed that Colorado has been in a perpetual drought in recent memory, with wild fires being a constant summertime concern.

  20 inches of rain; dry, arid ground with limited vegetation. No wonder there was flooding.

  So I steered clear of Boulder until Saturday afternoon.

Boulder Creek, and the Boulder Creek Path become one.
  The skies lightened, rain had stopped, and there was even a little blue sky behind the Flatirons.

  The football game between Colorado and Fresno State had been cancelled. But there was to be an event at Folsom Field hosting and feeding displaced families by the athletic department and its student athletes. A great way to turn a negative into a positive. A friend and I stopped by to see if we could be of any help, but there were already many helping hands.

What Boulder Creek usually looks like. With Flood Marker.
Boulder Creek
  We then visited the flooded area below CU's campus, Boulder Creek. Boulder Creek has a long history of flooding. I remember spring time always being the most-susceptible because of the fast snow melt turning into runoff from the mountains looming over campus. Waters rise quickly. 

  The bike path that runs alongside the creek always seemed to be a flood danger. 

  I had never seen the waters so high, and so fast (more pictures here). And this was after the water had receded quite a bit. But the effect was evident. Mud and debris were scattered throughout the usually clean streets.

Short video at Boulder Creek.

  Coincidentally we came upon a giant teal marker (made from recycled glass, of course) that stands near the creek at Arapahoe and Broadway -- the flood level marker -- marking the 100 year flood level (5 feet), the 500 year flood level (7.5 feet), and the Big Thompson flood level (10 feet). 

Flooding below Broadway.
  The flood waters surpassed the 500 year level Thursday night/Friday morning.

The Damage and the Clean Up
  The rain hit again Sunday, and people in Boulder, Longmont, Aurora, and Lyons were again struggling with flooding. At best, homeowners had a little water in their basements or crawl spaces. At worst, they had to evacuate and didn't know the extent of their home's damage.

Mean looking skies Sunday afternoon.
There have been 10 deaths reported, and 200 people remain unaccounted for (as of Thursday, September 19th). Property losses for residential property alone are estimated at $900 million. And now there is concern of oil spills and fracking fluid contamination.

  The cleanup will be a long, expensive effort.

  There are several relief organizations aiding the effort -- listed below -- if you are interested in volunteering, or donating supplies or funds.

By Monday, there were blue skies.
  The good news is this: the Colorado skies are blue once again, and the ground is drying out. Relief is coming, and Coloradans will bounce back, just like they've always done.

  Until then, I look forward to my next visit to the Rocky Mountain Region. Here's hoping I'm able to see Ralphie and the Buffs in action!

United Way Foothills Flood Relief Fund -- Allows you to donate or volunteer in Boulder and Broomfield Counties. 100% of funds raised through their effort will be used toward health and human services to those affected by the recent flooding in the area.

CU Flood Fund -- For those who want to give directly to people affected related to the University of Colorado.

Boulder Flood Relief Website -- Donate supplies, volunteer if you are in the area.

Another video at Boulder Creek.

Boulder Creek is to the right of the picture, below campus.
Flood damage in Boulder. The Flatirons in the distance.
Below Broadway.
Roped off area.
Flood waters extend out into the park.


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