What is it?
Flash floods are sudden and destructive rushes of water down a narrow gully or over a sloping surface; they are caused by heavy rainfall, such as the kind often produced during Colorado’s summer thunderstorms. The floodplain is any land susceptible to inundation by floodwaters from any source.
What’s the Risk?
The Fort Collins community is vulnerable to river and stream flooding, flash floods, and urban street flooding. Flooding along rivers is a natural and inevitable part of life. Some floods occur seasonally when spring rains, coupled with melting snows, fill river basins with too much water too quickly. Most flash flooding is caused by slow-moving thunderstorms or thunderstorms repeatedly moving over the same area. Urban street flooding occurs when land is converted from fields to roads and parking lots and loses its ability to absorb rainfall.
Fort Collins has endured many flash floods. The most notable was the Spring Creek Flood of July 1997. This resulted from a series of heavy thunderstorms over a two-day period in West Fort Collins. Torrential rains began Sunday night, and dumped 4-6 inches of rain in the area. The next night, with the ground already saturated, a second round of even heavier storms formed in the same area. Meteorologists later described these storms as almost tropical in nature. More than 10 inches of rain fell from 5:30–11 p.m. the second night.
The flooding swelled tiny Spring Creek into a raging torrent, which killed five people, destroyed two fully occupied residential trailer parks and derailed a freight train.
The Colorado State University campus also suffered hundreds of millions of dollars in damage to buildings, including the Morgan Library, which lost much of its inventory of books and journals.
How Should I Prepare?
- Know your Flood Risks
- What is your home’s elevation above the flood stage?
- Do your local streams or rivers flood easily?
- Have a pre-determined place to move to safety. Know your evacuation routes.
- Flood insurance is highly recommended. Most standard home owner's insurance policies do not cover a property for flood damage. The City of Fort Collins has participated in the National Flood Insurance Program since 1979. This program allows Fort Collins residents to receive a 30% discount on their flood insurance rates. Check with your insurance agent for details.
- Keep your automobile fueled.
- Store clean drinking water.
- Water service may be interrupted.
- In case of an emergency you can use your bath tub or other large containers.
- Keep enough non-perishable food to last 72 hours for each person in your household.
- Have a manual can opener.
- Electric power may be interrupted.
- Things to keep accessible: first aid kit, a NOAA radio, a battery-powered radio, and a flashlight in working order.
- Monitor weather conditions. View real-time data from the City's flood warning system.
- Do not try to walk or swim through swiftly flowing water. Drowning is the number-one cause of deaths during floods.
- Do not drive through flooded areas. More people drown in their vehicles than anywhere else. Flowing water is very deceptive and it is impossible to tell exactly how deep the water is before you enter the stream. Although vehicles are heavy and stable on dry ground, they are very buoyant and easily floated. You can be swept away before you realize you are in trouble. We have all seen scenes on television of people who try to cross flooded roadways and are caught in the flow and must be rescued. Remember that each of those drivers thought the water was shallow enough for them to make it across. A vehicle may begin to float and drift in a foot or two of water.
- Stay away from power lines and electrical wires. The number two killer during floods is electrocution. Just because power lines are broken or lying on the ground does NOT mean they are safe!
After a Flood
- Do not consume food or water that has been contaminated with flood water.
- Do not re-enter the affected areas until emergency responders have confirmed that it is safe to do so.
- Electrical equipment should be dried and checked before use.
- Use battery-powered flashlights, NOT gas or oil lanterns as there may be flammable materials present.
- Report broken utility lines to 911 if sparking, otherwise report to Fort Collins Utilities at 970-221-6710.
- Pay attention to local radio or television programs for advice and instructions from your local government.