It’s late summer in Colorado, and that means one thing: rain.
The monsoonal flow of tropical moisture this time of year is a regular feature of life in the Rocky Mountain West, and it’s not unusual for big storms to line up along the Front Range on a nearly daily basis between the months of July and September. These seasonal storms are created by winds shifting in from the south, pulling moisture up from California and the Gulf of Mexico rather than from the dry western side of the state.
The result? Localized flooding across much of Colorado.
As an added twist, 2016 also happens to be an “El Nino” year, during which the trade winds over the Pacific Ocean weaken, allowing warmer water to gather in the central and eastern Pacific. This leads to increased thunderstorm activity further to the east than usual, allowing more time for storms to build up before hitting the west coast of North America.
The result? It’s been, and will continue to be, a slightly wetter year in Colorado than average.
Flooding is a risk across the state
The reality of flood risk in Colorado hit home for many on the Front Range in 2013, when floodwaters all but destroyed the town of Lyons and inundated the Longmont area and nearby Weld County. A full 17 Colorado counties were impacted by the floods, which caused property damages in excess of $2 billion.
But flooding is a concern outside of Northern Colorado as well. The City of Denver maintains a map of the local floodplains within its borders, many of which are in heavily populated, downtown areas. And for those outside the metro area, the Colorado Water Conservation Board maintains a similar interactive map covering the entire state.
The point is, flooding is an ever-present part of life in Colorado, even though we live hundreds of miles from the coast.
Protecting your property
So what should local residents do? The Insurance Information Institute (I.I.I) recommends the following steps for anyone living in or near a floodplain.
Get insurance: Flood insurance is not an automatic part of the typical homeowners insurance package and must be purchased separately. This means that, in the event of a flood event, any damage to your home may be excluded from insurance coverage if you don’t have a flood rider in place. Flood insurance for homeowners, renters and businesses is administered through the federal government via the Federal Insurance Administration, a part of the Federal Emergency Management Agency, and is only available in areas where the local government maintains adequate flood plain management policies under the National Flood Insurance Program. Ask your insurance agent for details.
Maintain supplies: A well stocked emergency kit in flood country should include plywood, plastic sheeting, nails, hammers, shovels, sandbags, flashlights, batteries, a battery operated radio, first aid kit, emergency food and water and more. The idea is to have enough on hand to both protect your home and protect your family in the event of a significant flood event.
Locate switches: Too many homeowners fail to locate the switches in their homes to shut off gas, electricity and water in the event of an emergency. To make matters worse, the stress of an active flood often makes these critical switches even more difficult to find. Make sure to locate all necessary shutoffs ahead of time and keep everyone in your household up to date on their operation and locations.
Keep an inventory: The I.I.I. offers a free home inventory tool at KnowYourStuff.org that allows homeowners to easily create and maintain a virtual inventory of their home’s contents. Go through the process now, and you’ll be happy you did later.