Camera's full reporting on flood The talk on the street the first full weekend of September was about the heat. Boulder tied a record for the date with 93 degrees that Sunday. At Folsom Field the night of Sept. The experts said the late-summer bake was going to ease. They talked about a cold front in the forecast for Monday, Sept.
And forecasters were looking at an unusually high level of moisture in the atmosphere. Some much-needed rain was on the horizon. Monday dawned as one more beautiful late-summer day. But clouds began to build over the foothills by midday. Late in the afternoon, the rain started coming down. There was no way to know the region was in the first hours of what experts would ultimately call a 1,year rain and a year flood.
The rain continued across the county throughout the day Tuesday, prompting Erie to close a section of the Coal Creek Trail near Parkdale Circle at midday because of standing water.
Little did Erie Parks Division Manager Gary Hegner know at the time that the trail wouldn't be reopening for weeks, if not months. But it wasn't until Wednesday morning that Gibson realized what was shaping up outside his window was no ordinary storm.
That was after 1. Monday and 5 p. Boulder's total for the year was now at This chart, produced by CIRES, plots the storm's daily rainfall against the daily creek flow at Boulder Creek and North 75th Street Picasa Few had noticed two days before, the NWS had issued a flash-flood watch over the middle of the day for the Hyde Park burn area to the north in Larimer County -- the first of many associated with the historic storm now underway.
Forecasters saw a low-pressure system parked over the Utah Basin, fed by a southerly flow of tropical moisture, flanked by a high-pressure ridge to the northeast and upslope conditions that would keep rain in the forecast. We were thinking on the order of 2 to 3 inches of rain, causing flooding. We weren't thinking on the order of 8 inches of rain, causing flooding. They anticipated three vigorous days of hiking and games and science-based environmental education -- and being safely back in their beds at home Friday night.
But throughout the day, it would rain. Children and adults alike were getting soaked. My boots fell apart. The initial two postings that day on the city of Boulder's Facebook page congratulated CU for ranking 36th on a list of public universities. Another invited residents to design their own transit system tool. Then came this city posting: An officer had responded to a call of standing water on Vista Parkway and a manhole cover that had popped from its moorings. A bridge collapse on a business access road at Highway and Dillon Road in Lafayette causes three cars to fall in the creek on Sept.
Water on some streets was surging to 3 feet in depth. Vrain Greenway at 8 p. Earlier, the city's public works director, Dale Rademacher, had walked that greenway with City Manager Harold Dominguez. Back in Boulder, the tone on the city's Facebook page would shift with the next posting: Motorists are urged to avoid driving through flooded areas. They are no strangers to the sometimes-vicious whims of nature.
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Their family's home on Sugarloaf Mountain was incinerated to its foundation in the Fourmile Fire. They now live in Eldorado Springs. Louise Vale, vice chancellor for administration, said emergency staff members were called in at 8 p. The university sent out its first campuswide text alert at 8: There were widespread reports of students playing "slip and slide" on Farrand Field and tubing in tunnels on campus.
The city of Boulder, at Don't try to cross the creek by any means, people were told. It was shortly after 10 p. A total of were forced to temporarily relocate. Rain was pounding the Fourmile Fire burn area. This was so far out of the ordinary. Wiyanna Nelson and Wesley Quinlan, both 19, were driving with two friends back to the city down Linden Drive from a birthday party in the hills northwest of Boulder shortly after 11 p.
Raging water and mud surged around their Subaru. Stuck, three of the car's occupants -- Nelson and Quinlan, as well as Nathan Jennings -- got out to seek help, while the fourth friend, Emily Briggs, stayed in the car. Nelson and Quinlan were overcome by the raging creek outside and killed as they were swept away.
Briggs, who had stayed in the car, survived, as did Jennings. The situation was worsening in other parts of Boulder County, as well. Just before midnight, Longmont public works director Rademacher called Dominguez, the city manager, alerting him to the building danger of flooding in the city.
Dominguez had been watching coverage of the weather on television. Soon after Rademacher called him, Dominguez brought emergency manager Dan Eamon into the conversation with a conference call.
The decision was made to activate the city's emergency operations center. Vrain River bridge at U.
I remember being pretty worried about getting stuck where we were. There were several inches of water on the roadway.
Across the foothills to the south, Gibson, the Four Mile Fire chief, was getting increasingly worried.
Rain measurements had reached three-quarters of an inch per half-hour. In Jamestown, Little James Creek was quickly swelling into a rushing river five times its normal width and many times its normal speed.
From the mountains to the city streets, the words of Boulder City Manager Jane Brautigam best summarized the deteriorating situation: Quickly going from bad to worse Little James Creek began ripping buildings from their foundations and sending roofs plunging into basements.
One of those buildings belonged to Joseph Howlett, 72, former owner of the Jamestown Mercantile. Howlett was believed to be crushed to death early Thursday when his home collapsed on him after it was pummeled by rushing waters for hours.
His body was finally pulled from the rubble six days later. In north Boulder early Thursday, Alli Jones cursed to herself as she stood at the top of her stairs looking down to the first floor of her home on 17th Street across from Crest View Elementary.
Water was flooding her first floor. Earlier, Jones had heard the emergency bulletins. Her first plan had been -- denial. She had retreated to the second floor to do some work. But by 1 a. Am I supposed to turn the power off? Am I supposed to leave the lights on? The dark was animated by dozens of teenagers and their parents, some equipped with headlamps, sandbagging, digging, rushing in a frenzy to stem the same floodwaters that were wreaking havoc on their neighborhood school.
In Longmont, just after 1 a. Vrain River, warning people to get out.
In the foothills, emergency workers set up roadblocks in Fourmile Canyon, sent out notifications to residents and began communicating with Office of Emergency Management personnel in Boulder about what they were seeing around them. In the city, Boulder Creek was, by 1: Two days before, it had been flowing at a leisurely 54 cfs.
An evacuation order in the North St. Vrain Canyon in Lyons forced residents from their homes about 2: Among those doing so were Gerald Boland and his wife, Cheron, who set out for a friend's home in Hygiene. Gerald Boland, 80, never got there. At some point, Boland turned his car around, stopping at Lyons Elementary.
He had taught there for 30 years. The school was now an evacuation shelter. He was one of the first to arrive, turning on the lights for the stream of evacuees who soon would be arriving.
It's not known when he left the school, but he was not spotted again. Boland's badly battered truck would be discovered about yards downstream from his home, and his body was finally recovered a week later in the St. The center was up and running by 2: Daylight brought a brief respite in the rainfall in Fourmile Canyon, enough for Gibson and his crew to take stock of the damage wrought to roads and infrastructure overnight.
Some much-needed rain was on the horizon. AD- ply at Armory Servlcn Station.
Gibson put out a call to Longmont search-and-rescue crews for some help in making contact with residents, some of whom were trapped behind walls of mud or isolated by gutted roads. It was to no avail. Many intersections were impassable, and crews needed access without traffic to respond to urgent calls. And the rain wouldn't stop. A firefighter trapped in a tree in Lefthand Canyon -- where he spent much of the day, barely surviving -- reported a to foot "wall of water" surging through the canyon.
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