Severe Weather - Floods

With epic snows comes the risk of epic flooding.  It is a fact of life in Colorado that, as the snow yields to Spring, rivers and streams rise, filling reservoirs and sometimes flooding adjacent lands.  Sometimes, in the event of a severe thunderstorm, heavy rainfalls, sudden breaks in river ice jams or dam/levee failures, flash floods can also strike.  Flash floods are characterized by rapid rises in water levels that can hit with little warning and occur within minutes or hours.  (for more on floods and flash flooding, be sure to check out the National Weather Service Flood Safety page and the Division's Flood Info Page and FEMA's Flood Safety Page). For current flood watches/warnings, be sure to check the National Weather Service Colorado Alerts Page.

To stay up to speed with Colorado flood activity/threats, be sure to subscribe to the Colorado Department of Natural Resources Colorado Water Conservation Board's Flood Threat Bulletin.

Flood awareness and safety is, thankfully, rather uncomplicated.
  • Stay alert for changing weather conditions
  • Get out of areas subject to flooding like low spots, canyons and riverbeds when storms hit
  • If you notice water levels rising, head to higher ground.  Go up.
  • Do not attempt to cross water that is above your knees.
  • Do not drive over a flooded road.
  • Abandon stalled vehicles and move to higher ground.  Do not become a statistic for a car.
  • Do not attempt to outrun the flood.

In the event of flooding, there are many risks - and not just with water levels.  Debris, such as trees and rocks, can be carried at high speeds and surprising distances.  Best to head "up" and away from places where water is moving.  Better to have a good story to tell later to your friends and family about how you acted to save yourself than to be one we all watch on television.  A shocking percentage of flash flood fatalities are vehicle related.  One to two feet of water is enough to carry away vehicles.  Too, since the water will have debris and likely will not be as clear as an alpine lake, you won't be able to see through it to see how deep it is or whether the road is damaged.   Turn around or back up.  It isn't worth the risk.

In Colorado, there are several options to keep up with changing conditions, such as the Colorado Warnings/Alerts Page with the National Weather Service where flood watches and warnings are posted, using the Colorado NWS Radio Network, or checking regional conditions through the Colorado Department of Natural Resources/Colorado Water Conservation Board