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Colorado No Stranger To Flooding, Harsh Weather Conditions
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Story By: Larry Stine



  Originally Published on: 10/20/2013

It's been more than a month since devastating floods struck Colorado, and, it turns out, scientists will be researching those floods for a long time to come. Jim Benemann explains why they were different from any the state has ever seen. Images of raging rivers, breaching their banks, are still fresh in our minds. "It doesn't really compare to any others that I have ever been through," says Colorado resident J.D. Benedict. Native Coloradians have been through a lot of floods. J.D. Benedict was 18-years-old when the South Platte River flooded through Denver. "We were standing there watching houses float down the river," he says. That 1965 flood turned city streets into rivers, and left a path of destruction through downtown. Even then, Coloradians were known for their resilience. "I again can't say how proud I am of the citizens of Colorado, how they've handled this thing," says Colorado Governor John Love. Floods have been a part of Colorado's history from the very beginning. Photos from the Denver Library show Walsenburg under water in 1886. In 1894, Denver residents watched as the Cherry Creek ran through West Denver. The Big Thompson Flood of 1976 was the state's deadliest, 144 people killed. "The events we've seen in the past that have been the historic ones we point to, the Big Thompson Canyon flood, the Fort Collins flood back in 1997, those were all thunderstorms that blew up in a small area, and rained themselves out in a matter of six hours or less," says Kelly Mahoney, a NOAA Scientist. "Tell me what sort of meteorological phenomenon was feeding all that moisture day after day? asked CNN's Jim Beneman. "We had a couple days to set things up," said Mahoney. "We had a really stagnant upper level, large scale weather pattern that just decided to stick itself in place. That stagnant storm dumped as much as 18 inches of rain in parts of the front range over the course of seven days, making the 2013 storm so unusual. "In terms of the geographic area and the amount of rain, there's really nothing, historically, to compare this to," Benemen said. "Not that we know of," Mahoney said. "We haven't found it yet." There will be many lessons learned from the Great Flood of 2013. "The way that we always conceptualized extreme rainfall in this area is going to have to shift a little bit in order to really be prepared going forward," Mahoney says. "Do you think things like this are going to become more common," asked Beneman. "Even if the frequency doesn't necessarily increase in this area, the idea that we can continue to get as intense, if not more intense, events is certainly is consistenly with the theory," Mahoney says.

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