A look back at the 2013 Colorado floods that changed the state forever

LYONS, Colorado — After days of light rain over parts of Colorado, clouds broke on the night of Sept. 11, 2013, unleashing a torrent of rain that flooded 4,500 square miles over a series of days.

It's been 10 years since the 2013 Colorado floods claimed the lives of nine people and caused $4 billion in damage, making them one of the largest disasters in state history. Fifteen counties in Colorado were declared disaster areas.

While rain began falling two days before 9/11, it wasn't until that night that the deluge began. More than 19,000 people had to be evacuated because the rain showed no signs of stopping.

John Wark/AP

FILE - In this Saturday, Sept. 14, 2013, file photo, a field of parked cars and trucks lies partially submerged near Greeley, Colorado, as rivers full of debris flooded towns and farms miles from the Rocky Mountains. (AP Photo/John Wark)

According to the National Metereological Servicea weak disturbance coincided with that day's showers and thunderstorms, resulting in a nearly stationary area of ​​heavy rain along the Front Range.

Heavy rain continued for much of the next day, before finally subsiding late in the evening. Some rain showers followed, but the vast majority of this rain fell in about 30 hours between the 11th and 12th, according to the NWS.

The rain filled streams and rivers, causing them to rise well above flood level. Affected waterways included: Big Thompson River, Little Thompson River, Cache La Poudre River, Lefthand Creek, St. Vrain Creek, Boulder Creek, South Boulder Creek, Coal Creek, Sand Creek and Fountain Creek.

When the sky cleared, the damage was more visible. Bridges were destroyed, roads disappeared, lives were lost, and damage to public and personal property was extensive. More than 2,000 homes and businesses were destroyed.

The National Guard was called in and helped rescue 3,000 people who were stranded after roads and bridges were washed away.

Flood victims rescued

Ed Andrieski/AP

FILE - Flood victims are helped off military helicopters at the Boulder Municipal Airport in Boulder, Colorado, Monday, Sept. 16, 2013, after being rescued. (AP Photo/Ed Andrieski, File)

But nine people never made it out and lost their lives due to this disaster. The victims were the following:

  • James Bettner, 47, Colorado Springs
  • Danny Davis, 54, Colorado Springs
  • Joseph Howlett, 72, Jamestown
  • Wiyanna Nelson, 19, Boulder
  • Wesely Quinlan, 19, Boulder
  • Carroll White, 83, Idaho Springs
  • Evelyn Starner, 79, Loveland
  • Gerald Boland, 80 years old, Lyon
  • Patty Goodwine, 60, Loveland

One of the hardest hit areas was the city of Lyons, which saw between 12 and 18 inches during this period.
Neal Sullivan, owner of St. Vrain Market on Main Street in Lyons, said the disaster brought them closer together and strengthened their community in many ways.

He said the days of rain that preceded the flooding were becoming a concern.



"What was unique is that Colorado generally doesn't get persistent rain. And so, after several days of rain, I think everyone was not only exhausted but starting to get a little worried," he said.

Sullivan said his store became an "epicenter" during the flooding.

"The road turned into the river, and the road empties right in front of the store," he explained. "So the river flowed right into the market, into the market, and flooded the place where we were standing."


'Working together to be stronger': Living in Lyon a decade after the flood

17:45 September 8, 2023

Ten years later, Reconstruction efforts in Lyon are still underway. – in some way to restore the city, and in another way, as a form of acceptance that the torrents of water changed life forever.

Several local communities will host events this weekend and next week to mark the 10th anniversary.

The following are some events that are taking place:

Tuesday, September 5, 6:30 - 8:30 pm
Viewing the documentary "Foundations of the Flood" by Cat Russell
Community room of the Lyon regional library

Saturday, September 9, 6 - 7:30 pm
Open Mic: sharing stories, poems and songs from the 2013 flood
Moxie Bread, Lyon

Sunday, September 10, 11 a.m. - 12:30 p.m.
Official 2013 Flood Commemoration Ceremony at Sandstone Park

Sunday, September 10, 12:30 - 4 pm
Exhibitions and exhibitions throughout the city at the following locations
- Town Hall: Presentations on floods at 1:00 p.m. and 2:30 p.m.
- Visitor Center: large flood memorabilia, flood t-shirts and printed canvases.
- Lyon Regional Library: practical souvenirs: books and photographs
- Lyons Redstone Museum: permanent flood exhibit and flood interviews
- Lyons Primary School: Gerald Boland Bench and Stone
- Lyons Valley Townhomes: Tour of newly built affordable homes on Carter Drive

Sunday, September 10, 12:30 - 4 pm
Silver Linings Tour: One-Hour Guided Golf Car Tour of the Flood Recovery Projects at Sandstone Park

Sunday, September 10, 3 - 7 pm
Community gathering (picnic, live music, dance show)
La Vern M. Johnson Park

Monday, September 11, 6:30 - 8:30 pm
Candlelight Vigil (ceremony and music) at Confluence Circle (4th Ave and Prospect St.)

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