Record rain in Boulder doubled totals in just 5 days

Published: Sep. 17, 2013 at 11:16 AM MST|Updated: Feb. 28, 2018 at 5:21 PM MST
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The northern Front Range of the Colorado Rockies, experienced some of the worst flooding on record this month.

This flooding came from record rainfall that smashed some of the old numbers which date back into the 1800s.

In Boulder, on September 12, 2013 9.08" of rain came down, which set an all-time single day record for the city just northwest of Denver.

The previous record was 4.80" set on July 31, 1919.

Overall Boulder has measured 17.17" of rain from September 1st through the morning of the 16th.

Nearly all of that rain came down after September 10th.

The above rain total numbers are from Boulder weather observer Matt Kelsch.

Check out the below graphic from Climate Central.

It shows the wettest year (blue) versus the driest year (red) on record for Boulder, then compares those numbers to this year's rain totals (yellow).

Credit: Dennis Adams-Smith/Climate Central

As of Monday September 16th, Boulder has measured 30.12" of rain.

Roughly half of that came down between September 10th and 15th.

The extreme amount of rain pushed 2013 above the wettest year on record, which was 1995 with 29.93" of rain.

Keep in mind that new record total could still go up before the end of the year.

At last count, Climate Central says "an estimated 19,000 homes damaged or destroyed, and at least 30 highway bridges taken out by floodwaters."

The destructive flooding is estimated to be a 1-in-1,000 year event.

That means there is a 0.1% chance of a flood of that magnitude happening each year.

To break that down even more, over the course of a 30 year mortgage there is a 3% chance of a 1-in-1000 year event.

Climate Central warns "scientists cautioned that such statistical return periods are difficult to calculate given the scarcity of historical records of such massive floods and the shifting nature of probability given population growth, which has put more people and property in harms' way. They also cited the warming climate, which has increased the risk of extreme precipitation events throughout the U.S."

"If your climate is not stationary then that adds another wrinkle (to the statistics)," said Robert Henson, a meteorologist at the University Corporation for Atmospheric Research in Boulder, in an interview with Climate Central.

Structural damage along the Big Thompson River and Highway 34, taken from a Colorado Air National Guard helicopter. Credit: U.S. Air National Guard photo by Capt. Darin Overstreet.

The flooding triggered the largest U.S. rescue airlift since Hurricane Katrina.

Recovery has already begun as water continues to recede from the area.