Friday, April 12, 2019

One of the costliest disasters in Colorado history

“Eventually, all things merge into one, and a river runs through it. The river was cut by the world's great flood and runs over rocks from the basement of time. On some of the rocks are timeless raindrops. Under the rocks are the words, and some of the words are theirs.
I am haunted by waters.”

Norman Maclean, A River Runs Through it and Other Stories 

Memorial Day Flood of 1935 ranks in the top three 

 By Rob Carrigan,

Few people are still around that remember the big rain, and resulting flood of Memorial Day, 1935.
It has been overshadowed by more-recent events, like the tragic Big Thompson Flood that killed more than 140 people in late July, 1976, right as Colorado was celebrating its Centennial. And there is the 2013 Colorado Front Range Flood, that began with rain falling on September 11, 2013, as a slow-moving cold front stalled over Colorado, clashing with warm humid monsoon air from the south. Heavy rain and catastrophic flooding along Colorado's Front Range from Colorado Springs north to Fort Collins followed.  Boulder County took the worst hit, with 9.08 inches recorded September 12 and up to 17 inches of rain recorded by September 15, which is comparable to Boulder County's average annual precipitation of 20.7 inches.
But the 1935 event probably ranks in the top three flooding disasters here.
"The most extreme rainfall event on record in Colorado was that of May 30-31, 1935. In an event that strains credulity, an astonishing 24” of rain fell in six hours (22.80” of which fell in just four hours) at two locations in eastern Colorado on the afternoon and evening of May 30, 1935," writes Christopher C. Burt of the Weather Underground. 
"The amounts were recorded at two remote sites located about a hundred miles apart, Gauge #Sec. 34, T9S, R564W was located about 25 miles northeast of Colorado Springs, and Gauge #AB Sec. 26, T5S, R55W, just north of Burlington, near the Kansas border. The amounts of rainfall were recorded five hours apart, at Gauge #34 between noon and 6 p.m., and at #26 between 7 p.m. and 3 a.m. A third gauge halfway between the two picked up 11” in three hours, between 6 p.m. and 9 p.m."
The Weather Bureau’s Climatological Data, Colorado Section, May, 1935, reported the following in the Monthly Review:
"On the 30th, excessive local downpours occurred in the vicinity of Colorado Springs and along the northern slope of the Arkansas-Platte Divide. Four lives were lost and a total estimated property damage of $1,800,000 [about $20 million adjusted for current dollars] occurred along Monument Creek and Fountain Creek in Colorado Springs and vicinity. At the height of the flood, skies over extreme eastern counties (where the phenomenal rainfalls were recorded) were a chocolate brown. This was due to a most unusual situation. Along the Colorado-Kansas border there was a heavy dust storm. Clouds of dust could be seen for miles, while to the west torrents of floodwater roared, and at Bovina, hailstones, some as large as baseballs, were reported to have fallen. The coppery-hued sky cast a brown shadow, giving the scene a weird appearance. "
Burt says, in the end, at least 21 people were killed (and probably quite a few more) in floods statewide, and property damage totaled between $8 and $10 million (about $100 million in current dollars,) ranking this event as one of the costliest disasters in Colorado history. Combined with damage and fatalities in Nebraska and Kansas, the storm may actually have killed 113 and caused $800 million (1997 adjusted) in damages.

Photo Info:
1. June 1 and 2, 1935, An aerial view of a flood in Iliff, Colorado, downstream shows rippling water covering fields; houses and farm buildings are surrounded. A gas station and a dirt road are still dry except for a washed-out area; clusters of people and automobiles are along the road.

2. On the Republican River in McCook, Nebraska, after rain fell first in Colorado.

Significant Flood Events in the Pikes Peak Region throughout the past century according to information from Pikes Peak Regional Building Department.

• June 10, 1864 — 20-30 foot rise in Fountain Creek. Swept away all of Colorado City affecting several victims.

July 3, 1882 — Flood down Ute Pass in Manitou; bridges and railroad tracks destroyed. One victim.

July 26. 1885  — Flash Flood Swept Away Homes, People, and Livestock. A sudden downpour caused Shook’s Run, Fountain, and Cheyenne creeks to overflow. Railroad bridges on the old Manitou spur were wiped out, and the Rio Grande Bridge was destroyed. The storm dumped 16 inches of rain and hail in one hour, devastating downtown Colorado Spring s. There was one victim.

August 1, 1886 — Repeat of 1885 flood.

August 1, 1915 —"Great Sand Creek Flood" - East of Colorado Springs; taking three victims.

June 2-7, 1921 — Shook’s Run, Sand Creek, and Fountain Creek flooded. Deluge of Water Submerges Colorado Springs - Pueblo inundated. Sand Creek was 15 feet deep,  Fountain Creek overflowed, and Shook’s Run became a river with water flooding several blocks of Northwestern Colorado Springs. South Nevada Avenue was completely flooded.

• May 27, 1922  — Eastern Colorado Springs and Templeton Gap Basin flooded.

• September 1, 1929 — Flood Hits Summer Homes - Mountain Resort is wiped out. College Gulch was flooded by a 15 foot wall of water caused by the breaking of dams on Ute Pass  Fish Club. This wiped out Crystola and washed out the Midland tracks. There was one victim.

May 31, 1935 — Monument Creek flooded within one hour, killing four people and causing $1.2
million in property damage (equal to $16.1 million, today). Memorial Day Flood Monument Creek floods 200 square blocks of the city and southern Colorado Springs was under water. Damages were estimated at $1.769 million. Monument creek had a peak flow of 50,000 cubic feet per second (CFS) into Fountain Creek. There were eight victims.

• June 15-19, 1965 — Storm in Region Causes Wide Damage from rain; 2-3 inches of hail in Security and Fountain areas. Sand, Squirrel, and Fountain Creek overflowed; Hancock Expressway section washed away. 8 -10 bridges were swept away.

• July 24, 1965 — Rash floods cause a landslide at Cheyenne Mountain Zoo, damaging ape and hippo houses. Seven Falls Area was also affected.  Boulders were dislodged from Cheyenne Mountain and crossed Highway 115 into Fort Carson.

• July 24, 1970 — Flash floods cover Constitution Ave,to Fountain Blvd.; One victim.

August 20, 1970 — 9-11" of rain causes flooding and rock slides in Rock Creek Canyon.

July21, 1972 — Jimmy Camp Creek flood washout causes $50,000 worth of damage to roads and

• July 2, 1980 — Heavy rains causes flooding.

• July 21, 1985 — 1-25 closed due to nearly 2-5 inches of rain; Gold Camp and Old Stage Road were

• June 17, 1993 — Flash flooding, and Fountain Creek overflowed.

• April - May 1995 — Black Squirrel Creek spilled over railroad tracks; damaged the creek bed and 40 roads; 24 roads were closed.

• July 14, 1996 —EI Paso County was hit the hardest with numerous washed out roads and bridges.
Statewide flood damage estimates exceeded $38 million.

• July 27, 1997 — Colorado Springs is hammered again with flooding, hail, power outages, 1-3
inches rain. 1.5 inches in 45 minutes. Fountain and Monument creeks overflowed; water had risen to 3 ft. deep on streets.

• June 11, 1997 — Flood waters still raging through the area with 6-10 inches of rain, roads closed, Fountain and Cheyenne Creeks had washed out bridges. Evacuations in Red Rock Canyon and Manitou. Seven Falls closed.

• July 30, 1998 — Heavy rain impacted Security and Widefield communities. 4 inches of rain in EI
Paso County, washes out County Fair, streets flood, bridge collapsed.

• May 1999 — National Disaster was declared after flooding in El Paso County. Infrastructure damage at over 80 sites in El Paso County. As much as 14.5 inches of rain fell in less than 48 hours (compared to average annual precipitation/rainfall of 17 to 19 inches). Over $30 million in damages. Waterlogged Four days of rain/snow: 13 inches in Seven Falls, 12.16 inches in Manitou Springs, 7.9 inches in Monument and Fountain Creek overflowed.

June 21, 2005 — Flash Flood on Cottonwood Creek; 2 victims.

July 23, 2012 — Flash Flooding in Ute Pass. U.S. Highway 24 was closed, damage done to Ute Pass Elementary School playground.

Aug. 2, 2012 — Rainbows Falls Recreation Area closed due to flash flood damage and danger.

July 1, 2013 —Flash Flooding on U.S. Highway 24.

July 10, 2013 — Flash Flooding in Manitou Springs destroying several houses.

Aug. 9, 2013 — Flash Flooding; one man killed, Highway 24 closed.

Sept. 11-13, 2013  — Flash Flooding; one person killed, Highway 24 closed. Cheyenne Creek flooding, residents pre-evacuated due to danger, roads closed, thousands without power.

Thursday, April 11, 2019

Historically not native, but a growing restless population

Moose usually do not tend toward natural aggression

 Photos and story by Rob Carrigan,

For the most part, from most of the historical record at least, moose are not really native to Colorado. But with restless wanderers from nearby Wyoming and Utah, and a successful introduction effort, starting in the 1970s, Colorado is now home to about 2,500 moose.

Although moose aren't more dangerous than bears in terms of behavior, they pose a greater threat of injuring you simply because of their population size. Moose outnumber bears nearly three to one in Alaska, wounding around five to 10 people in that state annually. That's more than grizzly bear and black bear attacks combined, says Crusteb Conger of the award-winning blog, HowStuffWorks.

Despite the incidence rates, moose do not tend toward natural aggression. The largest species of the deer family, Alaskan moose are the biggest in the world. But their size betrays their generally passive demeanor. Feeding off plants and tree bark, these herbivores munch on willows, birches and grasses by the pound. During the barren winter, when moose can't get their lips on these natural foods, Anchorage watches the trash-seeking moose population balloon to around 1,000, Conger writes.

Here in Colorado, it appears the incidence of moose versus humans is a small, but growing problem.

Elissa Slezak, district wildlife manager with Colorado Parks and Wildlife in Summit County, describes an uptick in the number of conflicts between humans and the state’s approximate 2,500 moose. “Over the past few months myself and my fellow officer in Summit County have been getting moose calls almost daily,” Slezak, told Denver Post reporter Elise Schmelzer in October of last year. While the agency doesn’t maintain statistics about the number of moose incidents reported to them, Slezak said she has seen the number of conflicts steadily increase over the last few years.

It is difficult to peg the exact reason for the growing incidence of interaction but increased human and moose populations across the state make run-ins more likely. As moose populations continue to grow, the animals are expanding their range to less remote areas and even occasionally wander through Front Range communities.

History of Moose in Colorado

Historical records dating back to the 1850s indicate that moose wandered into northern Colorado from Wyoming, but were transient and never established a stable breeding population. Most of the historic sightings involved hunters seeing and/or harvesting a single bull moose, according to fact sheet from Colorado Parks and Wildlife.

Moose Introduction

"In the 1950s, Colorado wildlife officials considered bringing moose to the state. There were concerns, voiced at public meetings on a series of proposals, that moose would compete with cattle and sheep on grazing land, and potentially damage local ecosystems and other wildlife species. State wildlife managers advocated moose reintroduction because of the abundant habitat available and lack of natural predators," Colorado wildlife officials say.

During the 1960s and the early 1970s, the Colorado Division of Wildlife (now Colorado Parks and Wildlife) worked with the U.S. Forest Service, the Bureau of Land Management, the National Park Service, the general public and local ranchers on selecting the North Park area in the Routt National Forest near Walden as the site for the first moose reintroduction.

"In 1978, state wildlife experts transplanted 24 male and female moose from Wyoming and Utah to create a breeding population in North Park and provide hunting opportunities. Additional moose from Wyoming, Utah and Colorado’s own growing population were introduced to other areas of western Colorado over the years. The project succeeded in creating new hunting opportunities and a popular wildlife viewing option. The state legislature, in 1995, declared Walden the 'Moose Viewing Capital of Colorado,'” says recent information from Colorado Parks and Wildlife.

"By 2012, the reintroduction program had established a breeding population of about 2,300 moose in Colorado. Moose hunting is available in 39 game management units (GMUs). There were 16,500 applicants for 219 moose hunting licenses and 185 moose were harvested in 2012. While the moose population in other states has declined, Colorado’s moose population continues to grow."

Sunday, April 7, 2019

Intentionally under water, but not forgotten

“Towns are like people. Old ones often have character, the new ones are interchangeable.”
Wallace Stegner, Angle of Repose 

Wet or dry, there is always a place for us

By Rob Carrigan,

Devastating floods this March in the center of the country makes a person think. The tragic evacuation of towns and loss of life, and livelihood, along with billions in damages from the swelling Missouri River is heart breaking.

Recent flooding in the Midwest calls to mind other towns submerged, some here in Colorado, but under entirely different circumstances. I think of my own experience, watching for years as crews worked to sink the former lumber town of McPhee under the newly-created reservoir.

For decades we had archeologists from Washington State, and University of Colorado, and probably other places, sifting through the sand and dirt down river – poking in the oak brush, photographing the old buildings. We called them ‘bonediggers.’ There were also Bureau of Land Management folks, and dam contractors clearing brush, and moving cemeteries – all documenting this and documenting that. The place was busy on a global scale with contractors and subcontractors, like Obayashi Gumi Corporation, and other multinationals working on multi-year projects.

Stout is a former town in Larimer County just west of the Dakota Hogback, located in foothills southwest of Fort Collins. Dating back to the 1860s as a camp for workers at the nearby stone quarries in the area, the Union Pacific Railroad invested in quarrying operation and built a rail spur from Fort Collins to transport stone for its own use elsewhere.

During its time of operation, Stout also had a reputation as a nearby source for liquor by thirsty Fort Collins' residents looking for a little something stronger than water. With a longtime prohibition, (more than 70 years) preventing the purchase and sales of "tonsil paint" in the high-minded city of Fort Collins, potential customers would sneak off to Stout. Because of well-developed transportation routes made for the stone quarry, it was easy for residents of Fort Collins. Drunk drivers being a danger on the roads constantly worried officials in both Stout and Fort Collins.

"Residents could easily get to Stout, the sandstone quarry town, to buy any libation they wanted. Sometimes quarrels ensued thanks to excessive inebriation; certainly, anyone under the influence was a danger to others on the roads," wrote longtime Fort Collins historian Barbara Fleming.

In 1949, to make way for the flooding of the valley by Horsetooth Reservoir as part of the Colorado-Big Thompson Project, most of what remained of the town of Stout, went under water.

Portions of the former town site lies today under the southern end of the reservoir.
Over time, a small community has developed around the south edge of the reservoir, locally known as "South Bay," and a sign at the southern end of the reservoir suggests the former quarry town of "Stout, population 47-1/2," still exists — although not officially.

Photo information:

1. Stout boarding house for quarry workers.
2. Old Stout School.
3. Wathen Ranch, before submersion.

Photos courtesy of Denver Public Library.