The Boulder Flash Flood: Can it Happen Here? - KMSP-TV

The Boulder Flash Flood: Can it Happen Here?

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A set of unique circumstances led to one of the most intense flash flood events in recent memory in Colorado. But can an event like this happen here? Well, it is a two part answer: yes and no. Flash flooding itself can happen anywhere at any time. Flash flooding is just rain that falls faster than the ground can soak it up which leads to excessive water running everywhere. Urban areas are more prone to flash flooding because they have plenty of impermeable surfaces. But what happened in Colorado overnight and this morning is something unique to the Front Range of the Rocky Mountains. It's a combination of the local topography and an atmospheric set up prone to large amounts of rain.  (Picture above is courtesy of Barrett Tryon)

The weather pattern was prone to large amounts of rain because of the location of a few different features. First off, several boundaries lay across the area… a stationary front that was draped across the region which can add additional lift to the atmosphere leading to more rain. A large area of high pressure off to the east and north is blockading any air from escaping east. At the same time, a low across the four corners is pumping in a river of monsoonal moisture from both the Pacific and Atlantic into New Mexico and Colorado. Combine these factors with the added lift because of the mountains and you get a recipe for a TON of rain. It can all be seen in this picture below.

What might be even more amazing is the event isn't over yet. This very set up will likely stay in place into the weekend, so more heavy rain looks likely.

Pictures and video coming out of the Boulder area are nothing short of incredible. Large amounts of water continue to flow over everything. This is a picture of the University of Colorado campus in Boulder courtesy of Christy Felder.

This area is usually dry!

Here is another picture of roads and parking lots in the area courtesy of 9News Denver.

This of course stems around the tremendous amount of rain seen just overnight and early Thursday morning. Here are the radar estimated rain totals from the area.

Widespread amounts of 2 to 5 inches with local areas upwards of 8 inches. This lead to record crests for Boulder Creek.

The creek spiked to just over 7 feet, almost 3 feet higher than its previous record crest. This creek's average depth is about 6 inches on any normal day. This is why flash flooding needs to be taken seriously. A lot of video and pictures have been coming out of the area with CU students wading around in some of the make shift rivers and streams that popped up. This is a very bad idea because flash flooding is one of the more unpredictable forces Mother Nature can bring. It can often come in surges with literal walls of water rushing through areas… especially in mountainous terrain. If something like this happened while these students were in those areas, they would have had BIG problems.

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