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Flooding? In 1965, Colorado got nailed

August 17, 2013 Updated: August 17, 2013 at 7:25 pm
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Has it really been that wet?

As often as it has rained this summer and as much tragedy and damage have been wrought by flooding, precipitation for Colorado Springs for the year to date is about 11 inches.

On average, 12.4 inches of precipitation fall by this date.

In 1965, it rained more than 12 inches in one day - two days in a row in some places.

The history puts this summer's flooding in perspective.

On June 17, 1965, an estimated 14 inches of rain fell in Falcon. Along the Palmer Divide, the same slow-moving storm dropped 12 inches in just three hours.

The day before, nearby Larkspur and Palmer Lake received 14 inches of rain in four hours.

Similar biblical rainfall occurred elsewhere along the Front Range. The ground was so saturated that the flooding became catastrophic on both sides of the Palmer Divide.

The flooding in Colorado Springs and Denver was so severe it's described in a report prepared by the National Center for Atmospheric Research, which provided an overview of the six-day period between June 14-20, 1965:

"The flood reached the South Platte River and the metropolitan areas of Denver by about 8 p.m. on June 16. The floodwaters spread to a half-mile or more in width. The peak discharge of the South Platte at Denver was 183 percent of the previous maximum during 67 years of record and historical information indicates that the 1965 discharge was the greatest since at least 1844."

In the Pikes Peak region, the report said "the towns of Peyton, Ellicott, Rush, Calhan, Ramah, and others in El Paso County were isolated for a time on June 17 by floodwaters after the area was hit with heavy rains and hail. The flooding caused heavy damages to crops, roads, and bridges. However, Ramah Reservoir reduced the peak flow on Big Sandy Creek significantly.

Statewide, the flood destroyed or damaged more than 2,500 homes. Repair and replacement of bridges and highways in the state highway system alone cost $9 million.

Around Colorado, 21 deaths, mostly drownings, were attributed to the 1965 floods. Agricultural losses were estimated to be $15 million.

In the South Platte River Basin, damage was estimated at $504 million. In the Arkansas River Basin, including Colorado Springs, the damage estimated was $37 million.

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Contact him at 636-0363 or barry.noreen@gazette.com.

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