Friday, September 13, 2013

When the Levee Breaks: #boulderflood

Driving back from work on Wednesday was not a lot of fun after a full day of on and off rain. The intense and sustained nature of it made me wonder if this was not a typical rainfall for the area and the events of Thursday Sept 12 confirmed it. Writing today, I can say that Boulder has undergone a natural disaster unlike any since I have been here (almost 20 years) and probably in several generations.

Summing up what has happened is difficult to say the least but essentially every canyon between north Denver and Fort Collins has either experienced serious flooding or could do so in coming days. The brunt of the water has hit the cities of Longmont and Boulder the hardest but no municipality has been unaffected and Lyons in particular, will never be the same.

What does this mean for climbing in the area? Basically, nobody should plan on coming to Boulder specifically for climbing in the next few days at least. Although road closures will probably be lifted soon as flood waters dissipate, significant issues will remain for weeks and possibly months. Here's a quick rundown of local areas and likely problems

Clear Creek Canyon assuming it remains open, will be very unstable on the approaches up its steep slopes for some time. Eldorado Canyon State Park is closed, Eldorado Springs has been evacuated and within the park, the road washed out west of the Bastille. Boulder City and County Open Space are officially closed and many trails have been seriously damaged. Boulder Canyon has had massive rockslides and will be closed to traffic for some time Steep hillsides and loosened boulders will make for hazardous conditions in many locales for weeks, along with destroyed trails.
Highway 36 just before it washed away completely. Via Twitter

Access to the high country is seriously compromised with major highway washouts on Route 7 and Route 36, the two primary roads to RMNP from the east. The town of Lyons where 36 comes over from Boulder has seen massive destruction and there is no access west or east through it. It will be some time before Lyons is anywhere back to normal. Estes Park itself has seen major flooding and roads and trails within RMNP may be closed due to damage as yet unknown. Estes Park is currently accessible only from the west via Trail Ridge Road which could close any time due to early season snow.
Route 7, west of Lyons.Via the Denver Post

Further north, route 34 along the Big Thompson River is closed due to rockslides and the river itself may well wash out the highway completely. Further east 34 has washed over I-25 and other significant roads making north-south travel in the state very difficult north of Denver for most.
In Fort Collins proper, the Poudre river is at flood stage making access to Poudre Canyon impossible and the possibility of rockslides is high with continued rain. Areas such as Carter Lake and Horsetooth may be affected as well but I have no first hand information.
Before coming to Boulder in the next few days, I would strongly recommend checking in with local news sources and resources such as Colorado Department of Transportation. Links below.

UPDATE: Rocky Mountain National Park is closed to recreational visitors

1 comment:

chuffer said...

Sounds like you're telling us to go to Castlewood.