Colorado State Publications Blog

Time Machine Tuesday: Anniversary of the 2013 Floods

Five years ago today, the rain began to fall in what became one of the state’s most significant flood disasters, impacting twenty-four counties and causing millions of dollars in damage. The Colorado communities affected by the September 2013 floods showed amazing resilience and are thriving once again.

Here are some State of Colorado resources that tell the story of the 2013 floods and subsequent recovery efforts:

Flood damage near Jamestown, Colorado, September 2013.

Photo courtesy Wikimedia Commons

Colorado State Publications Blog

Time Machine Tuesday: Summer Floods

As hot and dry as it has been so far this summer, it’s hard to believe that most of Colorado’s floods — the September 2013 floods being a significant exception — occur in June and July. In our library you can find many resources on the history of flooding in Colorado. Many flood events are documented in publications available from our library.

The Northern Colorado Floods of 1997
1997 was a significant year for floods in Colorado. Lessons of Recovery: A Review of the 1997 Colorado Flood Disaster provides an overview of the various floods that occurred in northern Colorado in July of that year.
“In Fort Collins and in the Morgan County community of Weldona, the 1997 flood events far exceeded anything on record or in the memories of long-time residents,” noted the report, which was produced in 1999 by the state’s Office of Emergency Management. Five Fort Collins residents were killed in what is known as the Spring Creek Flood, which caused thousands of dollars in damage and even affected the CSU campus. Larimer County received the heaviest recorded rainfall in 24 hours during that flood event. See my Time Machine Tuesday post from last July for more on the flood and additional resources.
Pawnee Creek, in Logan County, also flooded during this time. CSU’s Colorado Climate Center produced a report on the rainfall for the Pawnee Creek storm. The 1997 floods are also covered in Flood of 97, an state-federal interagency hazard mitigation report, and in Colorado’s 1997 Flood Season in Review, a publication of the Colorado Water Conservation Board (CWCB).
A little over a month earlier, on June 2, Weld County had experienced significant flooding. The Colorado Water Conservation Board produced an Engineering Technical Report on this event.
1996 Floods
On July 12, 1996, residents near Buffalo Creek in western Jefferson County experienced a disastrous flood exacerbated by the denuded landscape resulting from a recent forest fire. Two people were killed in the flood. For information see The Buffalo Creek Flash Flood of 1996 and Emergency Response, Flood Hazard Mitigation, and Flood Hazard Awareness for Residents of Buffalo Creek, Colorado.
Just three days before, on July 9, southeastern Pueblo experienced a flood at Dry Creek basin, brought on by a heavy thunderstorm. The floodwaters circumvented a levee downstream of a rail crossing, damaging several homes. The Colorado Water Conservation Board’s review of the flood can be accessed from our library.
The Big Thompson Flood
The deadliest flood in Colorado history, the Big Thompson Flood, began on the night of July 31, 1976. The disaster claimed the lives of 144 people and caused over $35 million in damages, according to the Fort Collins Coloradoan. Our library collection includes numerous reports and studies on this flood. Some of the reports that have been digitized and are available online include:

Other Floods

  • One of the most damaging floods in the state’s history occurred when the Arkansas River flooded on June 3, 1921. Exactly seventy-three years to the day, Pueblo again experienced flooding. The second flood is chronicled in the City and County of Pueblo Flood Hazard Mitigation Plan: The June 3, 1994 Flash Flood.
  • Colorado Springs experienced a flood, along with a major hailstorm, on June 17, 1993. Lessons learned from this event were used to create the City of Colorado Springs Flood Hazard Mitigation Plan, completed in cooperation with the Colorado Office of Emergency Management.
  • Frenchman Creek, in Phillips County, was hit by flooding on July 30, 1989. Most of the damage occurred to roadways, agricultural lands, and a few buildings in the small town of Paoli. Read the CWCB’s Post Flood Report for details. Information on other floods occurring in 1988 and 1989 can be found in Chronology of Floods in Colorado, published in 1991.
  • The Uncompahgre Valley in Montrose and Delta Counties experienced six summer floods between 1921 and 1983. A Flood Damage Survey Report from the CWCB describes the flooding in this area.
  • On June 3, 1981 a severe thunderstorm and up to 3.5 inches of rain “caused considerable flooding in the town of Milliken [in Weld County] and adjacent farm lands.” The storm also produced hail and tornadoes. “Considerable tornado damage was reported in Denver, Northglenn, Thornton, and Fort Lupton. Hail damage was reported along a line from Northglenn to Greeley and well on to the northeast at many scattered locations,” according to the CWCB’s report on the flood.
  • Many long-time Denverites recall when the South Platte flooded on June 16, 1965, killing twenty-one people. The State Legislature’s report on the flood has been digitized and is available online from our library.

Our library collection contains many more documents about Colorado flooding than just those listed here. Search our online catalog for more resources.
Do you have memories of these or other Colorado floods? Share your reminiscences in the comments section below.

Colorado State Publications Blog

September is National Preparedness Month

The recent hurricane events have demonstrated the importance of being prepared for disaster.  Even though we don’t get hurricanes in our state, there are a number of other disasters to prepare for — including both natural disasters (floods, fires, tornadoes, storms, avalanches, rockslides) and manmade disasters (terrorism, active shooters, power outages).  There are many personal incidents to prepare for as well — illness, identity theft, personal safety, home protection, and more., sponsored by Colorado’s Division of Homeland Security and Emergency Management, can help you prepare for hazards large and small.

On the site you can find resources on how to create a preparedness plan for your home or office; how to stay informed of emergencies in your area; a calendar of events and training; 8 signs of terrorism; a natural hazards map; pet safety; resources for educators; resources for people with disabilities; and a blog.  Recent entries in their blog include a wide variety of topics including pedestrian safety, business continuity planning, bears, immunizations, heatstroke prevention, campfire safety, internet safety, and drone safety.  Before the next disaster – personal or community-wide – affects you, check out this informative site.

Colorado State Publications Blog

1997 Fort Collins Flood

Twenty years ago today a major flood hit Fort Collins.  Heavy rainfall of 3 inches per hour began late in the evening of July 27 and continued throughout the day on the 28th.  Homes were flooded, a train derailed, a gas leak caused an explosion near Prospect Road, and in the end, the flood left five people dead.  The flood also caused major damage to more than a dozen buildings on the Colorado State University Campus, including the Lory Student Center, the Morgan Library, and the Administration Annex.  CSU is recalling the event with a series of articles that include a timeline of the flood, meteorological analysis, videos and slideshows, and personal recollections.

The State Publications Library also has several interesting resources on the 1997 Fort Collins flood, including

The 1997 flood was certainly not the first flood to hit the Fort Collins area, and interestingly, just one year before the flood, the University of Colorado-Boulder’s Natural Hazards Center convened a meeting in Fort Collins to address “What We Have Learned Since the Big Thompson Flood,” Northern Colorado’s worst flood disaster which had hit twenty years before.  The official proceedings from the meeting can be checked out from our library.  Also, following another, smaller flood in June 1992, the City of Fort Collins and the state’s Emergency Management Office issued a Flood Hazard Mitigation Plan for Fort Collins, which can also be checked out from our library.

Flood damage at Colorado State University’s Morgan Library, July 1997.  Photo courtesy Morgan Library.
Colorado State Publications Blog

Disaster Preparedness for Pets

‘Tis the season for fires and floods, and if a disaster threatens your home and family, your furry pals will be affected, too.  According to the Colorado Division of Homeland Security and Emergency Management (DHSEM), “one of the biggest reasons people return to danger/evacuation zones is to save their pets.”  DHSEM and the state’s emergency preparedness website,, recently offered some recommendations on helping prepare your pets for an evacuation:

  • Build a Kit. Just like we should do for ourselves, create a 72-hour preparedness kit for your pet. Make sure they have extra food, water, medications and toys in case you are unable to get to a store or are forced to evacuate on short notice. 

  • Have a Plan. Your plan needs to include how you will transport your animals in an evacuation, possible routes you will take and your destination or sheltering options. Know which friends, relatives, boarding facilities or animal shelters can care for your animals in an emergency. Have a list of phone numbers readily available.

  • Know Your Neighbors. Meet your neighbors before a disaster strikes and develop a neighborhood plan for pet assistance. If a disaster occurs while you are at work or away from home you may need assistance from a neighbor in reaching your pets.

  • Pets Feel Stress Too. When you are stressed, your pet will feel that stress too and they can act out because of this. Having a plan in place for your pet before an emergency will help lessen the stress for both of you.

For further information, see the publications Providing for Pets During Disasters and Animal Issues in Emergency Management, available from our library.

Colorado State Publications Blog

Time Machine Tuesday: Buffalo Creek, 20 Years Later

In July of 1996 — twenty years ago this month — the town of Buffalo Creek was hit by a disastrous flash flood that took two lives and caused severe damage to property.

Buffalo Creek is located in the western foothills of Jefferson County, about an hour from Denver.  It was founded in 1877.  Known for its hiking and biking trails, the area around Buffalo Creek has been tested several times by wildfire, including the 2000 Hi Meadows Fire and the 2002 Hayman Fire. 

The 1996 flood disaster occurred two months after another huge forest fire, this one even closer to the town.  The fire destroyed 18 homes.  According to a Colorado Water Conservation Board report issued in March, 1997, “The cruel irony of the flash flood is that it followed a massive forest fire which burned 12,000 acres of nearby forest land during May 1996.  The combined hardships associated with both of these disasters and the continuing threat of additional flash flooding has produced serious concerns for the remaining residents of Buffalo Creek.”  The flood destroyed the town’s fire station and community center, damaged several homes, destroyed bridges, and washed out parts of Highway 126.  It also wreaked havoc on the town’s water, electricity, and telephone systems.

The denuded landscape along with unusually heavy rains were to blame for the flood.  In southern Colorado, Pueblo had also experienced flooding that same week.  The Buffalo Creek flood is just one of numerous high-profile floods in Colorado, including the 1965 South Platte River flood; the 1976 Big Thompson flood; and the major floods of 2013.  To learn more about flooding in Colorado, search our library’s online catalog.

Aftermath of the 1996 fire and flood at Buffalo Creek.  Photo courtesy USGS.

Colorado State Publications Blog

Governor's Disaster Declaration

Lieutenant Governor Garcia (in Governor Hickenlooper’s absence) has issued a disaster declaration for the floods and landslides affecting Colorado due to the heavy spring and summer rains Colorado has experienced this year.  Executive Order D 2015-005 authorizes the Colorado National Guard to respond to flooding and landslides affecting Northwest Colorado, especially State Highway 13.  The EO also makes available $150,000 from the state’s disaster emergency fund.  The flooding is due to Colorado receiving between 200{66eaadba41c14e7e553ffe7a4ee73fbae213b19704eda0514b3dd79e37e4c0c5} and 600{66eaadba41c14e7e553ffe7a4ee73fbae213b19704eda0514b3dd79e37e4c0c5} of average rainfall this year, according to the EO. For updated information visit the Colorado Division of Homeland Security & Emergency Management’s blog  You can also find all Colorado executive orders, including historical disaster declarations, from Governors Hickenlooper, Ritter, Owens, Romer, and Lamm, available from our library.  Search our library’s web catalog for these and other resources.

Colorado State Publications Blog

Dam Safety

With all of the recent rain it is important to be aware of dam safety if you live near a river or dam.  The Dam Safety Branch of the Colorado Department of Natural Resources has issued the following safety tips:

If you live in Colorado you are aware of the above average precipitation we have had and the saturated conditions of our ground in much of the state. Rivers are running high as is typical for this time of year, and the added moisture is making flooding more likely than ever. These conditions put added pressure on dams. The extra runoff can make streams run that normally don’t and fill small ponds and reservoirs that are typically dry. Below are some facts about dams and preparations and actions that community members can take to keep themselves and their neighbors out of harm’s way in the event of a dam emergency in their area.


§ The larger dams you see in your area with large concrete structures and wide open spillways were designed for extreme amounts of rain. Those structures were designed specifically handle and safely pass the volumes of rain and moisture we are currently experiencing.
§ Even during normal operations, some spillway flows may be damaging and hazardous to the downstream channel and care should be taken around spillways discharging to those channels
§ Smaller neighborhood dams, farm ponds, livestock ponds and erosion control ponds are less hazardous due to their small size, but can still be dangerous if someone finds themselves in the wrong place at the wrong time.
§ Water flowing from spillways, outlet works or even over a dam generally follow established and defined stream channels or drainage paths.
§ More useful information about dams and their safe operation can be found in the Dam Safety Manual provided by the Colorado Dam Safety Branch at:
§ Or on our dam safety website at:


§ Now is a great time to make yourself aware of your surroundings and the likely numerous dams in your area. Take notice of reservoirs in your area and areas of normal travel and recreation.
§ Take notice of the stream channels and drainage ways that affect you every day.
§ Notice low areas and channels and find the highest surrounding ground nearest to them. Memorize where those high places are
§ Seek out sources of current weather information and stay tuned to those sources when conditions dictate.


§ In the event of high stream flows, sheet flows down streets or flows in ditches, always seek the higher ground 
§ Never travel in or cross a flooded area or a path of moving water on foot or in a vehicle, Turn around, don’t drown! 
§ Pay attention to weather and weather alerts in your area

You can also find information on dam safety at our library.  Resources include 

Colorado State Publications Blog

Time Machine Tuesday: 1965 Flood

September 2013 notwithstanding, springtime is generally the season when we are most prone to floods in Colorado.  In fact it was on this day, May 19, 1864 that Denver experienced its first major flood disaster.  Yet it was a century later that Denver and the eastern plains experienced another flood, one that many longtime residents can still recall.  The 1965 flood occurred on June 16 of that year, when four consecutive days of heavy rains caused the South Platte River to flood from Denver to the Nebraska state line.  Twenty-one persons were killed and many others injured.  The flood caused over $543 million in damage, destroying more than 5,000 structures.  During that same week, flooding also occurred along the Arkansas River basin. 

Flood damage at a trailer park near Bowles and Santa Fe Drive.       

That July, the state legislature convened a special session  to deal with the June flooding.  The cost to the state included not only the damage, but costs incurred by the calling out of the National Guard; highway safety expenses; health/environmental cleanup; and public welfare for those left homeless.  Therefore, the Legislature considered such measures as increasing the fuel tax to pay for repairs to highways; distribution of Federal disaster relief funds; flood plain regulation; and the establishment of a legislative committee to study how future disasters of this type could be prevented.  The report of this committee can be accessed online through our library.  It includes an informative description of the disaster as well as a summation of the steps taken by the General Assembly to deal with it.

Photo courtesy Colorado Water Conservation Board

Colorado State Publications Blog

Morgan County Floods

Due to recent heavy rains the National Weather Service is carefully monitoring water levels in some areas of Colorado, particularly around Fort Morgan.  The State Emergency Operations Center (EOC) and Morgan County EOC have been activated and potential evacuation zones have been established.  The weather is being monitored for continued rainfall, as well.  Morgan County and Fort Morgan have officially declared an emergency.  The Colorado Division of Homeland Security & Emergency Management (DHSEM) has set up a public information map which includes information on possible flood zones.  The map includes feeds such as river gauges, forecasts, radar, daily precipitation, public alerts, Red Cross information, and more.  If you live in the Morgan County area, keep checking the map for updated information.  Updates are also being posted on the DHSEM’s blog,

For flood preparedness information, visit  If you have had flooding on your property you may want to consult the State of Colorado’s 2014 resource guide After the Flood:  A Guide to Returning to Your Home and Cleaning Up.

Colorado State Publications Blog

September is National Preparedness Month

Communities and individuals are better able to withstand disasters when they are prepared, whether it is by clearing the area around a structure at risk of wildfire; purchasing flood insurance; participating in a community-wide exercise; monitoring homeland security threats; or even keeping a snow shovel and blanket in your car during winter.  The State of Colorado has produced many informational resources on how communities and families can be prepared.  The State’s preparedness website,, is full of useful information.  Other helpful resources include:










Search our web catalog for additional documents.

Colorado State Publications Blog

The Floods — One Year Later

This cool and rainy day brings to mind the pouring rains of one year ago that caused the devastating 2013 floods, one of the largest natural disasters in our state’s history.  Colorado has come a long way in the year since the flooding.  Earlier this week Governor Hickenlooper released a statement commemorating the flood anniversary, which included an update on funding and recovery.  This Saturday, September 13, has been designated by the State as the Colorado United Day of Service, on which citizens are encouraged to assist with the ongoing recovery. 

In the wake of the disaster, the State of Colorado set up the new Colorado United website to connect citizens with recovery information and assistance.  The website is still going and includes the latest updates and news, impacted areas, a blog, volunteer opportunities (yes, still needed), a map of the floods, home safety tips, road and travel information, and more.  Other helpful information can be found at the Colorado Department of Agriculture’s Flood Resources webpage, which includes a photo gallery of the 2013 floods, and from the Colorado General Assembly’s Flood Disaster Study Committee.  The Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment has released a very helpful guide, After the Flood:  A Guide to Returning to Your Home and Cleaning UpOther environmental recovery resources can be found on CDPHE’s webpage.

There are some encouraging stories.  The State Historical Fund has prepared a video about recovery and restoration of the Lyons Library, which was severely damaged.   This is but one of the many stories of how Coloradans have cleaned up, cleared out, and continued to work toward the renewal of their communities.

Boulder’s Little Church in the Pines was severly damaged when its foundation was washed out during the flooding.  The State Historical Fund/History Colorado released this image showing the structure in the aftermath of the flood; during stabiliztion; and today. 
Colorado State Publications Blog

Mold in the Home

With the recent rainy weather, it is prudent to be aware of the possibility of mold growth in the home, particularly if you have any leaks or have any water in your basement or crawl space.  Rainy weather, however, is not the only contributor to mold in the home, according to the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment (CDPHE).  Humidifiers, shower steam, drying clothes indoors, and even sprinkler spray hitting the house can all be potential culprits for mold.  CDPHE emphasizes that some mold is always present, but becomes a problem and must be addressed if and when you can see or smell mold.  For information on cleanup procedures and potential health risks of mold, see the CDPHE’s Mold Information SheetInstructions for cleaning up mold can also be found in the CDPHE’s guidebook After the Flood:  A Guide to Returning to Your Home and Cleaning Up.

Colorado State Publications Blog

Cleaning Up and Returning Home After Floods and Mudslides

Last September’s floods left many with difficult clean-up before being able to return home.  With the significant amount of burn areas in Colorado, floods remain a threat for this year, and Mesa County has already seen mudslides this spring.  If your home is affected, it can be overwhelming to think about all you need to do so that you can return to your home.  So, the State of Colorado has put together a new guidebook, After the Flood:  A Guide to Returning to Your Home and Cleaning Up from the Colorado Department of Public Health and EnvironmentThe guidebook addresses such topics as drinking water safety, mold prevention and treatment, sewage cleanup, food safety, debris disposal, well water, hazardous materials including asbestos, and more.  There’s even a discussion on how to dispose of dead livestock.  Finally, the guidebook lists resources you can contact to get help.  This is a handy guidebook for those who are cleaning up from the current mudslides, and for those living in potential flood regions. 

Colorado State Publications Blog

Colorado Flood and Wildfire Awareness Week

In 2013 Colorado experienced the twin disasters of wildfires and floods on an especially large scale.  Now, it is time to take the lessons learned from these disasters and prepare for this year, as summer — fire and flood season — is just a few months away.  Therefore, this week has been designated Colorado Flood and Wildfire Awareness Week.  Both the Colorado Office of Emergency Management and NOAA have prepared instructional resources for Colorado citizens to learn about preparing for floods and fires — click on the hyperlinks for information from each agency. 

In addition, you can find a great deal of information on Colorado fires and floods in our library.  Search our web catalog for resources, including information on the 2013 fires and floods, such as the Wildfire Insurance and Forest Health Task Force Report, issued in September 2013.  Check back often, as new reports on the 2013 floods are being issued and will be cataloged by our library as they become available.

Colorado State Publications Blog

Colorado Climate Center – 2013 Flood Data

Colorado State University’s Colorado Climate Center has compiled a special website devoted to last September’s floods.  This website has extensive climatological data on the floods, including satellite imagery, a timeline, records and storm totals, accumulation graphs, streamflow runoff, and more.  The site also includes a section with numerous photographs from the affected areas.  They are also accepting your photo submissions.  The Colorado Climate Center also offers helpful resources on a variety of meteorological topics specific to Colorado, including snow, drought, climate trends, precipitation monitoring, and more.

Colorado State Publications Blog

Replacing Important Papers

Did you lose any of your important personal papers in the recent flooding?  If so, you may be scrambling to remember everything that needs to be replaced, as well as figuring out where to go to get replacements.  The Colorado Division of Emergency Management has addressed this problem by posting a list on their blog with websites and contact information for obtaining birth, death, and marriage certificates; mortgage, property, and insurance papers; adoption, immigration, and military records; financial information; passports; drivers licenses and vehicle records; and more.  Even if you were not affected by the recent flooding, this is helpful information to keep on hand in case any of your important documents are ever lost or destroyed.

Please note, the list links to a federal government website for obtaining birth, death, and marriage certificates.  However, if the birth, death, marriage, or divorce occurred in Colorado, you can obtain these records from the Colorado Dept. of Public Health & Environment’s Vital Records Section.   

Colorado State Publications Blog

More Flood Resources

Many people in Colorado are still being affected by last month’s floods, as they work to clean and repair flooded and damaged houses or find new places to live.  Roadways and dams are also affected.  The State of Colorado has set up a flood resource website,, which includes resources for flood victims, travel information, and how to volunteer or donate. 

Also helpful is the Colorado Dept. of Public Health & Environment’s flood resources page, which includes resources both in English and Spanish.  In addition to the lists of resources for the general public, the site also includes information for health care providers, retail food establishments, child care providers, and landfill owners and operators.  Included are helpful links on water quality and testing, wastewater, private wells, and mapping and GIS. 

Colorado State Publications Blog

Dam Safety

One of the challenges brought on by the recent floods is damages to a number of Colorado dams.  Dam safety in Colorado is overseen by the State Engineer’s Office.  Check out their 2013 Flood Information page.  They have produced a number of resources to provide guidance on this important safety issue:

Colorado State Publications Blog

How to Register for Disaster Assistance

The Colorado Division of Emergency Management has made available this helpful guide to how to register with FEMA and SBA for disaster assistance following last week’s devastating floods.  Included here, you can find a list of what disaster aid will cover, as well as maps of disaster assistance centers.  The site also includes fact sheets on individual assistance’s sequence of delivery, ways to apply, and disaster loans.  FEMA assistance can help affected individuals with the cost of rent, home repairs, and other related costs.  FEMA and the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) can likewise assist affected businesses.

Finally, if you still need assistance with disaster relief, visit your local library or contact an applicable state agency.  

Colorado State Publications Blog

Flood Resources

The State of Colorado has many resources available to Colorado flood victims.  Updates are available through the Colorado Office of Emergency Management at

Recovery guides for the Colorado flood disaster are available online at
§ Boulder County Flood Relief and Recovery Guide
§ Weld County Flood Relief and Recovery Guide
§ Jefferson County Flood Relief and Recovery Guide
§ El Paso County Flood Relief and Recovery Guide

For insurance information, see Disasters, Severe Weather and Insurance Claims from the Colorado Division of Insurance.

Search our library catalog for more Colorado flood resources.