Sunday, January 26, 2014
Building flood protection on lessons learned in our past
It is no solace, but floodwaters have raged here before.
When the Coalition for the Upper South Platte (CUSP) and El Paso County recently removed 260 dump truck loads of gravel, sand, muck and other material, they were working on top of flood structures originally built in the 1930s by the Civilian Conservation Corps. The Works Progress Administration also contributed to work on flood control projects in the area nearly 80 years ago.
Where there is steep, narrow canyons, there can be, and eventually probably will be, severe and dangerous flooding. And for at least 100 years, we have been cleaning up after one flood or another, and trying to mitigate the next ones.
In looking through records of the National Weather Weather Service in Pueblo, floods in August of 1904 washed away a train near there, killing 89 passengers in a local watershed. Again in 1921, more deadly flooding.
"Thunderstorms and heavy rainfall causes flooding in Cripple Creek and Cripple Creek Canyon. Damage estimated at $30,000 in Cripple Creek alone," the National Oceanic Atmospheric Association reported a July 15, 1923 storm.
Then again, on Memorial Day in 1935, 18 people are killed on bridges and structures in downtown Colorado Springs when Monument Creek washes through.
In May, 1949, heavy afternoon thunderstorms caused a landslide in the Ute Pass sending nearly 400 tons of rock and mud into Highway 24.
Wait a few years, June 15, the first of 15 days of rain and flooding on both Monument and Fountain Creeks, washing out bridges all the way to the Kansas border, and destroying much of the Cheyenne Mountain Zoo.
And I guess, floods are not the only thing we should worry about. The day before Independence Day in July 1966, A tornado rips through the Victor business district damaging the Baptist Church and the Masonic Hall, among other places.
Another tornado in June of 1979, can opener-like, tears the roof off a gas station and rips up trees by the roots in Manitou Springs. Nearly a million dollars in damages was reported.
Then, there is always the possibility of a microburst like the one north of Woodland Park that leveled 35 acres of trees in the summer of 1981.
Still, we haven't even really talked about the snow, as in the storm on May 18, in 1995 that dropped 18 inches in few hour on Woodland Park and rain in the Springs, not only flooding low-lying areas there, but closing the Highway 24 corridor in the Pass with a landslide then. Another storm in June of 1997 closed U.S. Highway 24 again and flooding much of Manitou Springs. Just two years later, in July, 1999, a group of teens were stranded while hiking Waldo Canyon and in another weather event that Nov. 21, 17 inches of snow buried Green Mountain Falls.
We can and will get weather around here. And not to make light of it, but as Dr. Suess says, “The storm starts, when the drops start dropping. When the drops stop dropping, then the storm starts stopping.”
And our hope is, of course, that all of our mitigating, and other measures, are built on what we have learned from our past.