low water crossing sign flood

September 2013 brought flood waters that had not been seen in Northern Colorado in recorded history. Many weather records fell with the rains that inundated this region at that time. The record rainfall brought on massive flash floods that damaged homes and businesses, while causing billions in property damage. That damage can still be seen two years later.

What Happened Back in 2013

The weather system that caused the record rainfall and massive flooding was a combination never seen in this part of the country before. A low pressure system had become stuck over the Great Basin to the west of Colorado. This stalled system started pulling moisture up from the Pacific towards the northern parts of Colorado. From the south and east, moisture was being pulled up-slope, fed by the warm waters of the Gulf of Mexico.

Slow moving winds from the southeast, combined with the record amount of moisture in the air, formed rain and thunderstorms along the Foothills and Front Range. The slow moving winds did not have the power to move the on and became stuck in the same area, causing a massive on-going deluge.

It rained for five days.

  • Monday, September 9 and Tuesday, September 10 – The first two days saw afternoon storms that laid down an inch or two of rain. This moisture soaked into the soil, making it harder for the rain that would follow to soak in.
  • Wednesday, September 11 – Rain returned a bit on Wednesday. But, the worst was still to come.
  • Thursday, September 12 – The rain that fell on Thursday was record busting. Over nine inches of rain fell in Boulder that day. That was almost double the previous record of 4.80 inches set back in 1919. All of that rain had nowhere to go but down the overtaxed creeks and rivers.
  • Friday, September 13 – The rain began easing off in the morning and most of it was gone by mid-day. In Boulder, the rainfall for these five days amounted to 14.62 inches.

The flooding the rain caused was massive. For example, Boulder Creek was running at 54 cubic feet per second at the beginning of the week. By Thursday night, Boulder Creek was running at 5,000 cubic feet per second. That is nearly a 100-fold increase in volume.

To minimize human losses, the state mandated evacuations in certain areas. Over 12,000 people were told to evacuate, with some going to temporary evacuation shelters. Some remote communities in the mountains were evacuated by helicopter after roads washed out.

The Aftermath

The rain and floods caused extensive damage, both human and property.

  • The rain brought flooding throughout 24 Northern Colorado counties, from the eastern side of Denver north to the Wyoming border.
  • The floods killed 10 people.
  • It also damaged or destroyed over 17,500 homes.
  • The cost of damage was initially estimated at over $2.0 billion. Two years out, the damage totals are nearing $4.0 billion.

Infrastructure damage was extensive. Over 80 bridges were either damaged or destroyed in the flood. Long sections of mountain road were shut down due to damage from washout and landslides. Many mountain areas were isolated because of the damaged roads and bridges.

Some communities and neighborhoods were completely wiped off the map. As an example, many mobile home communities located along creek banks were utterly destroyed in the floods. There is no place for people to come home to. This displaced hundreds of families.

The Effects Seen Today

Two years have past. Billions have been spent to try to rebuild that which was lost during the rains and floods. Some progress has been made. But, challenges still remain.

In the aftermath of the flooding, the state of Colorado determined there was an urgent need to restore and fortify the watersheds that were damaged or destroyed in the floods. This work is still underway and will continue for years to come. The work, though necessary, is disruptive to tourist and local travel.

Some property owners are still struggling to rebuild their homes. Many have plans in place, but await approval by local building authorities. In the aftermath of the flooding and subsequent landslides, authorities are taking extra care to ensure the new homes meet building codes, slowing things down further. Some have found they cannot rebuild because of floodplain rules.

Businesses are also seeing the impact of the slow rebuilding process. Tourism is a mainstay of many mountain communities. Road and bridge construction has disrupted the businesses in these small communities. Many locals hoped the construction would be done by the time the tourists come back next year.

Major disasters can happen just about anywhere. If you find your home or business damaged by such a disaster, you may find the insurance company is not playing fair. An independent insurance assessor can help.


Have you suffered from extensive water damage? Was your business destroyed by flood waters? Are you still struggling to get the help you need from your insurance company? The public insurance adjusters at Commercial Claim Pro can help. Contact them today at (877) 877-6612.
Photo Nurpu | Used under Creative Commons image attribution license 2.0