Colorado Flood could affect Millions all the way to the Ocean - KMSP-TV

Colorado Flood could affect Millions all the way to the Ocean

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A few short weeks ago, much of the state of Colorado was in the grip of what have become a several year long drought and one of the worst fire seasons in history. But a weeks' worth of heavy rainfall in what the National Weather Service called "biblical" amounts, the drought and fires that have ravaged the area is the last thing that many across the area are worrying about.

On average Boulder receives about 6 inches of rain during the summer months and about 14 inches of liquid precipitation over the year. In just a weeks' time, Boulder received 17.17 inches of rain smashing the all-time record of 9.59 inches set in May of 1995. More than 9 inches fell on September 12th alone which is almost double the previous daily rainfall record of 4.80 inches set on July 31, 1919. The 17 inches of rain has now pushed the area into the wettest year on record for the city with more than 3 months to go in the year.

Parts of Boulder are experiencing a 1-in-1,000 year flood. That doesn't literally mean that the kind of rainfall seen over the past week only occurs once in a millennium. Rather, it means that a flood of this magnitude only has a 0.1% chance of happening in a given year. This is historically bad luck, due in to the combination of an active, drenching Southwest monsoon, plus a funnel pumping in massive amounts of moisture from the Atlantic and Pacific through a low pressure area that was trapped in the desert southwest and a massive high pressure located in the Tennessee Valley. Combine this moisture funnel with easterly surface flow because of a high pressure surging in from Canada and a stationary frontal boundary hanging around, and you have the recipe for historic Front Range rainfall.

Here are the rainfall totals from across the area experienced in just a weeks time… as you look, notice one of those numbers is over 20 inches!

Just a few months ago, Boulder, Colorado was in the grip of yet another drought, and the state itself experienced its worst wildfire on record earlier this year. But after days of heavy rainfall that the National Weather Service called "biblical," drought and fire is the last thing that Boulder and the rest of the northern Front Range of Colorado has to worry about.

Here are some more powerful images coming in from the Denver and Boulder areas.

These pictures don't even do this unbelievable situation justice because of just the extent of the flood damage. Below is a map of all flooded roads, damaged and/or destroyed roads and bridges and areas that are closed because of high water.

Combining them all, there are hundreds. New startling numbers show that as much as half of the overall infrastructure for areas from north Denver to the Wyoming border is damaged or destroyed because of the flooding. With this kind of damage, life may not get back to the way it was for many years.

What's even worse? The devastation isn't over. Yes the rains have ended, but now we are into a flood situation versus a flash flood situation. The surge of water that tore through the Front Range is now heading down stream into the Platte River. Every location along the south fork Platte River has seen record flood levels, some by as much as 9 feet! This water will flow into the combined north and south fork Platte Rivers that make up the Platte River basin. Here is a map of what I'm talking about.

The Platte River flows all the way through southern Nebraska which takes it near the cities of Lincoln and Omaha where it there drains into the Missouri just south of Omaha. Of course, the Missouri River drains into the Mississippi on its way to the Gulf of Mexico. IF this surge of water isn't soaked up by the ground, evaporated, or even drained from the river, then much of Nebraska and Missouri could deal with flooding problems of their own which includes both Kansas City and St. Louis. Unfortunately, forecasting river levels is a HUGE challenge and one that still has a great amount of improvement needed, but it does look like much of the Platte River will hit flood stage at some point all the way to the Missouri. Here is what the river gauges have shown in Colorado already going from west to east.

The surge of water is moving into Nebraska now with current forecasts showing record flood levels likely for several locations in western and southern Nebraska… again showing these gauges from west to east.

Thankfully now, the Denver and Boulder areas will be entering a drier time period over the next few days with no more than slight chances for very isolated storms. With any luck, river levels will drop back to normal by October.

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