By Lyons Meteorologist, Greg Berman
The first raindrop fell at 6:25 p.m., on a Monday evening. This drop was followed up by an army of drops that continued through the night and into the morning hours. Yes, the accumulation was plenty, even at that time, but nothing that shook the earth or this Meteorologist who had already been forecasting a big rainstorm, or
in my terms a moisture bomb nine days in advance. I wasn’t alarmed one bit and figured that, hey, we can use the moisture and so can the surrounding area. But then nightfall came and so did Wednesday morning, and the rains hadn’t let up a lick. The army of drops seemed to be followed by a whole new cavalry, and by midday on Wednesday when we were approaching four inches of rain, my cavalier approach to this storm turned to one of a serious nature.
Game on, as they say in sports, but as we all know this was no game. By midnight Thursday morning, the gauge read six inches, and I knew we were in trouble. Thursday morning dawn brought me to the edge of our cliff and the sight of a once docile, innocent flowing, five-yard wide river had now turned into a football field sized, rushing, gushing, angry river. We all know the rest of the story. By Saturday morning September 14, we were sadly, tearfully told we had to leave Lyons for our own safety.
Two months of hotels and displacement and not knowing what’s next led me to ask myself, “what would I do if I ever saw a storm of this magnitude bearing down on us again?” I have been forecasting weather for over thirty years. I have been through five hurricanes, epic windstorms, epic hailstorms and epic snowstorms. And now I can add to my resume, a thousand-year flood. With all the time to think about this while we were away from Lyons, I came up with an idea. I decided I would use my expertise in the weather field to take care of our town and all of the towns and residents who were impacted so harshly by this epic flood.
The Flood Watch Network was thus formed to create awareness in Boulder County, Larimer County and the Counties that are adjacent to these two counties. Due to the flood that rampaged through both counties, measuring instruments in the rivers that show the cubic feet per second (cfs) were destroyed. In my February meeting with Lyons Fire Chief JJ Hoffman and Assistant Fire Chief Paul Davidovich, I explained that the Network was created and is going to be crucial to the monitoring of rivers from Estes Park to Lyons to Boulder, including the towns of Lyons, Estes Park, Glen Haven, Boulder, Pinewood Springs, Big Elk Meadows, Allenspark, Ward, Riverside, Raymond, Nederland and also adjacent towns like Longmont, Niwot, Loveland, Louisville, Lafayette and Eldorado Springs. Towns not mentioned and adjacent to these towns will also be covered. And though rivers are emphasized the most, any important streams or creeks that lead to flooding are also being monitored.
Because we now have new topography, thanks to the flood, our riverbeds and riverbanks have changed. In the past, 1200 cfs set off the alarm that floods may happen. Due to the new topography, JJ said it is not known if we may have a new cfs to be concerned with. It could be 1500 cfs, or it could be 700 cfs. No one really knows yet because of the rivers’ new makeup. That is why this Network is so critical. We will find out on the fly just how the rivers react to the runoff.
I can’t emphasize enough how critical this Network is going to be as far as saving property and lives, and how it will be a way to prepare all of the above mentioned towns on what may be coming our way. The snow pack is very high in many areas, and that, coupled with the spring run-off, thunderstorm bursts, and rapidly warming temperatures over a short period of time could lead to another catastrophic flood in parts or all of the towns in this Network.
Here is what I proposed to JJ and Paul, which is something they highly endorse. Anyone living in these towns who would like to take part in this Network will be asked to give me spotter reports during any heavy rains or snows. Many of you already do this for me on Weather Talk, but I am hoping that I will have many more folks take part. The rivers we are concerned about are the North, South and Middle St. Vrain, the Little Thompson, Big Thompson, and Boulder Creek.
It is critical to know at all times how these rivers are reacting to heavy snows, rains and runoff. Without the cfs gauges in place, the human eye is going to be very important to the welfare of the towns and citizens along these rivers. All critical river information reported to me will be relayed to our Fire Department and Law Enforcement. I will be constantly monitoring weather patterns and snow pack through at least June and reporting to our Fire Chief via radio, pager and/or phone call/text. Anyone who has agreed to be part of the Flood Watch Network will report to me via email or phone call, and I will report directly to JJ. Folks can follow the Flood Watch Network through the Facebook page, https://www.facebook.com/floodwatchnetwork. I have also created a web page (http://www.destinationlyons.com/floodwatchnetwork.html) that will reflect everything that goes out on the Facebook page. Through that web page, there will be many more weather maps that folks can view. Also via the web I am more able to use weather animations to explain what is going on in our part of the state. I will also be reporting to all of the TV stations in Denver.
The goal is to make sure there are no surprises this time. Please know that this Network is just a precaution and doesn’t mean whatsoever that a catastrophic flood is imminent at this time. This is our way of being prepared just in case and a way to keep everyone alerted in a case of serious flooding.
It is very critical that people share the Flood Watch Network Facebook page and Flood Watch Network website with family and friends. Updates will be coming to the FWN Facebook page and to the website on a continuous basis. You will be informed at all times well in advance of what may be coming our way.