More than 16 inches (40 centimeters) of rain has fallen across an expanse of Colorado’s Front Range, causing massive flash flooding. The city of Boulder has received 14 inches (35 centimeters) since the rains started on September 9. The National Weather Service has characterized the downpour as “biblical” in its volume. Boulder County Sheriff Joe Pelle described facing 20-foot (6-meter) walls of water racing down canyons that had already been stripped bare, first by drought and then wildfires.”This is not an ordinary day,” he stated. “It is not an ordinary disaster.” At least three people are known to have died from the storms.
Thousands of residents are being evacuated as local streams turn into rampaging torrents. After examining the area around Boulder Creek, Boulder’s Office of Emergency Management warned all residents “to go to higher ground immediately due to the potential for flash flooding along the creek.” The resort towns of Lyons and Estes Park are totally isolated by water and cascading rivers. Lyons, which has been without electric power, is being evacuated. Estes Park has lost both telephone and cellphone service. The rampant water has already caused at least six dams to fail, and state officials are closely watching several high-hazard dams whose failure would endanger lives and cause enormous property damage.
In New Mexico, an area in the Guadalupe Mountains received 11 inches (27 centimeters) in a 24-hour period. Until last week, the state has been in the grip of an intense, year-long drought, and riverbeds that have been dry for months are now treacherous rapids. Carlsbad Caverns National Park closed yesterday because of the flooding.