Fort Carson rain gauge may have captured Colorado record

By: Lisa Walton,
February 3, 2014 Updated: February 3, 2014 at 9:50 pm

One of the most devastating days in a September deluge that washed away cars, destroyed homes and killed two people, is now just a couple formalities away from setting an official record.

A rain gauge maintained by the U.S. Geological Survey at Fort Carson measured 11.85 inches of rainfall on Sept. 12, 2013, and is set to replace the state's previous 24-hour rainfall record of 11.08 inches, set in 1965 in Holly., Holly is near the Kansas border in southeastern Colorado.

"This is a very rare event," said Jennifer Stark, a meteorologist at the National Weather Service center in Pueblo. "That's approaching what we would expect to see in one year, not one day. We live in a very arid region."

Stark said the average annual precipitation for the region is 16.54 inches - and that includes snowmelt.

"It was day after day of very moist atmospheric conditions," she said of the September rains. Before a statewide record can be officially declared, however, it must be reviewed and approved by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's Climate Data Center. Nolan Doesken a state climatologist at Colorado State University's Colorado Climate Center, said the rain that fell in El Paso County was different than the rain that fell in the northern part of the state during September's epic storms. It was more intense. It fell in a shorter amount of time, and over a smaller area, he said.

The record-setting, concentrated rainfall was a double whammy for Colorado Springs residents on the west side, who were recovering from the 2012 Waldo Canyon fire, which destroyed 347 homes, killed two and left a burn scar stretching across the foothills.

Rain cascaded down the scar in September, shutting roads around the county and city, flooding Fountain Creek and closing down Manitou Springs.

"It's a unique circumstance that the storm occurred where it did, and that it was measured," said Doesken. "There's only historically been a dozen or so times where there was more than 7 inches measured at an official weather station."

There are about 1,000 weather stations around the state that are eligible to take official measurements, he said.

"This was a very major event in historical terms," he added. "And that's an understatement. We were lucky to catch it."

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