Storm shattered rainfall record, swelled creeks

September 15, 2011
photo - Despite the fog Thursday morning, there's no mistaking we're in Colorado Springs and not Seattle thanks to the Gen. Palmer statue. Photo by MARK REIS, THE GAZETTE
Despite the fog Thursday morning, there's no mistaking we're in Colorado Springs and not Seattle thanks to the Gen. Palmer statue. Photo by MARK REIS, THE GAZETTE 

The torrential downpour that washed through El Paso County on Wednesday set the record for the most rain on Sept. 14 in Colorado Springs, according to the National Weather Service.

The storm also left at least a foot of snow on the summit of Pikes Peak.

Measurements taken at the Colorado Springs Airport indicated that 4 1/2 inches of rain fell, about 4 inches more than the previous record of 0.46 inches for the date, set on Sept. 14, 1957.

The last time this much rain fell in a single day in Colorado Springs was in 2008, when 4.29 inches fell. Before that, the last time local rainfall broke the 4 inch mark was in August 1921.

Wednesday’s storm was an unusual confluence of cold southeasterly winds meeting a tropical storm moving northeast across the Pikes Peak region, said James Hall, a spokesman for the National Weather Service.

Fountain Creek surged to its highest level since a multi-day deluge in April 1999.

The 1999 spring storm tends to linger in people’s memory as one of the worst, said state climatologist Nolan Doesken.

“Every storm has its own specific nature,” he said. “And 1999 was a major storm, but it was different.”

Unlike Wednesday’s storm, the April storm of 1999 was a three-day affair, with a constant, steady drizzle. Back then, Fountain Creek surged to nearly 12 feet.

Fountain Creek was running nearly 4 feet above its normal depth. As of Thursday morning, the creek, which normally flows at 30 cubic feet per second, was flowing at 700 cfs. The swollen creeks had the region under a flash-flood warning past midnight Wednesday.

Areas northwest of Fountain received some of the heaviest rainfall, with one measurement pegging it at nearly 6 inches, according to the Community Collaborative Rain, Hail & Snow Network. Downtown Colorado Springs reported almost 3 inches of rain, and areas around Calhan reported the least, with just over 1 inch.

On Thursday morning plows were steadily working their way up the Pikes Peak Highway, and had 15 of the 19  miles of road cleared by noon.

Pikes Peak was shrouded in dense clouds most of Thursday morning, and visibility throughout the region was near zero at times, prompting a warning for drivers to go slow and keep headlights on.

The high Thursday was only in the mid-50s and overnight lows were expected to be in the 40s. 

The weekend forecast was for sunny days and a return to more seasonal temperatures in the mid-70s.





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