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Recent rains in Front Range trigger flood concerns

This week the National Weather Service issued several flash flood warnings due to recurring rainfall. However, forecasters are less concerned based on predictive modeling but still cautioned residents to take precautionary measures when warranted.
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Recent heavy rains have resulted in several flash flood warnings this week.

This week the National Weather Service issued several flash flood warnings due to recurring rainfall. However, forecasters are less concerned based on predictive modeling but still cautioned residents to take precautionary measures when warranted.

Several passing fronts doused the region with anywhere from 1-3 inches of precipitation this week depending on location.

“We've had a fair amount of rain here lately across the area,” said Senior Forecaster David Barjenbruch. “The storms are in the summertime, so it's very hit and miss.” 

While some brief heavy rains could occur in the near future, the odds of significant flooding impacts are minimal, Barjenbruch said.

Forecasters are not expecting any “… real what we call widespread heavy rain events that would cause widespread flooding like we had way back in 2013,” he said.

In September 2013, Colorado was hit with roughly a week of severe storms that wreaked havoc on the region. Overwhelmed creeks and streams spilled over to destroy homes, business and infrastructure, with eight fatalities reported and 17 counties suffering approximately $4 billion in damages.

“That was a pretty widespread very significant heavy rain event, all up and down the Front Range from about Northern Jefferson County all the way through Larimer County,” he said.

Barjenbruch said another historic flooding event in 1965 devastated the Denver region.

“So it can happen and it will happen again at some point,” he said.

The National Weather Service has different levels of flash flood warnings depending on the severity of precipitation.

“We have a baseline flash flood warning that does not trigger what you call a WEA (Wireless Emergency Alerts),” he explained. “Then we also have a considerable catastrophic alert with life threatening flash flooding that will trigger an alert on your cell phone.”

When catastrophic alerts are issued, Barjenbruch highlighted the importance of heeding caution.

“Something life threatening is happening, so at that point it's to stay out of those areas that are especially prone to flooding,” he said.

Flooding precautions are especially vital in areas previously impacted by wildfires. 

“Burn scars are the number one area of concern,” he said. “They can tolerate a lot less rainfall than other areas that do have vegetation on them.”

Avoiding low-lying areas prone to flooding also is recommended, Barjenbruch said.

In the case of flash flooding officials advise to seek higher ground or an upper floor.

“The basement can fill up quickly,” he said. “I’ve heard before that people have been trapped in their basements due to flooding.”

Driving during extreme weather events is the top cause of flood-related fatalities, Barjenbruch noted.

“People end up getting into the wrong location at the wrong time,” he said. “It’s hard to recognize how deep that water really is.”