Boulder, CO – Lessons Were Learned!

Many years of study and preparedness efforts on the part of both researchers and practitioners were behind the relatively positive outcome from recent flooding in Boulder, CO. It is not often that we can point to teaching points made and lessons actually learned, but here it one example.

With previous tragedy in mind, Boulder, Colo., was ready for flood; Flood damage is heavy in Boulder, Colo., but not what it could have been. Credit goes to changes made since a previous disaster. Some excerpts from this article follow:

Like communities up and down the Front Range, Boulder has long been known to be at high risk for flooding because it sits at the mouth of a canyon and is threaded with creeks. And officials here prepared for the inevitable. The city bought and removed buildings from flood-prone areas, built automatic floodgates around its creek-side municipal building and raised bridges to accommodate surging water and tumbling debris.

When epic rains soaked this city with more than 15 inches in just a few days, the planning seemed to pay off. While there was significant property damage, the city fared better than some neighboring communities ravaged by floodwaters. Not a single bridge in Boulder was destroyed.

The flood marker was put in place two years ago to show the expected water level in a 50-year flood, a 100-year flood and one comparable to the worst in local memory: the Big Thompson flash flood of 1976 that killed 144 people in a canyon to the north. It is also a memorial to Gilbert White, the late University of Colorado professor known as the “father of flood plain management,” who believed that people should move structures out of flood-prone areas instead of relying on dams and levees.

But for many other communities affected by the flood, the news was not good. See this NY Times article titled After flood colorado communities face difficult recovery. As is typically true in the aftermath of a disaster, the poor get hurt the worst because they usually live in the most vulnerable locations and in poorly constructed homes. (NYT Sept. 22.)

Sept. 23- recap of the events and key data from the Boulder Camera article. (19 pp.)

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