Rebuilding Issues in Colorado: questions re how and if to rebuild

From the Christian Science Monitor, an excellent account of the very difficult questions that individuals and public officials face in the aftermath of disaster. See After the Flood CO Making Tough Decisions. Some excerpts follow:

The state of Colorado faces an even larger task – restoring access to isolated ommunities. Some 200 miles of state highways and about 50 state-maintained
bridges have been severely damaged or wiped out, many in challenging mountain terrain. It’s a daunting undertaking that will cost hundreds of millions of dollars and will involve competing goals of speed, economy, and disaster mitigation and planning.

Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper (D), who has said he wants to rebuild “stronger,” has set a Dec. 1 deadline for rebuilding as much as possible, before winter sets in. Overall, though, the process will take years.

No doubt many decisions will be tough, although there could be an upside.

Thanks to Chris Jones for the citation.

Flood Information from Colorado

It is early in the day, but so far I have two items that may be of interest regarding the recent CO floods:

#1 The Colorado state Homeland Security and Emergency Management Agency has a new Recovery Focused Website website set up. Some details:

The Colorado Division of Homeland Security and Emergency Management (DHSEM) has launched a recovery focused website for the community and our partners in recovery. The website information is organized using the 14 Recovery Support Functions. The site also contains all media releases related to the flood, briefing notes from the Governor’s weekly call with local officials and presentation materials necessary in the recovery process. The site can be accessed at either http://www.CORecovers.info or by clicking on the Flood Recovery tab of www.COEmergency.com. DHSEM will continue to utilize our @COEmergency Twitter account and COEmergency Facebook to share new updates and resources.

#2 See this article and the accompanying video titled: Flood warning system developed after Big Thompson Canyon proves effective. [No longer available.]

In the past 37 years, improvements in flood detection and warnings as well as flood education in the Boulder CO area.

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.)

Content on CO Floods – updated on Sept. 19

Considering how many research institutions, academics, and social media devotees there are in the areas impacted by the flooding in CO, I am expecting a great deal of information of interest re the flooding risk, vulnerability, and history is available on the Internet. So far, it has been trickling in. Here are some specifics:

Comments and suggestions are beginning to come in – see the comment section below.

CO Floods- Sept. 18

The recovery issues are going to be very numerous and difficult in CO, since several mountain towns have been evacuated totally.  With lack of basic, functional infrastructure, and with winter weather fast approaching, recovery is going to be very slow and difficult. The Diva would like to study the towns of Lyons and Estes Park, but funding for that work and the ability to travel there preclude that option for the time being. If there are readers and/or grad students in those locales who would like to help track the progress, please let me know.

Regarding the flooding, one account I read said that some places received rainfall that was twice their usual annual amount.

And this article raises questions about possible connection of the unusual rains with climate change: Colorado floods triggered by convergence of geography and climate, experts say. Some excerpts:

The torrent of water that gushed over and down the Rocky Mountains late last week resulted from a fateful confluence of geography and weather. While the deluge is unprecedented in the historic record, it may offer a window onto the new normal as the planet continues to warm.The exact role of global climate change in the deluge is uncertain, but it certainly played a part, according to climate, weather and policy experts.

As of Tuesday, more than 17 inches of rain had fallen since Sept. 12 in Boulder, Colo. The soaking, described as “biblical” by the National Weather Service, left at least eight people dead with hundreds more still missing and rendered untold millions of dollars in property damage.

Here is another take on the weather and climate details.